Carlsbad native Sam Plumlee grew up hearing stories from Bataan Death March survivors. He appreciated and respected their stories. “I was right there at Vietnam, so many of those people, friends of mine and other relatives that went to Vietnam and they never came back the same,” he said.

Sam Plumlee, treasurer of the Carlsbad Veterans Honor Guard, stands with the New Mexico flag during a Memorial Day Ceremony in Carlsbad.

Sam, a U.S. Navy veteran, is the treasurer of the Carlsbad Veterans Honor Guard. He joined the Honor Guard three years ago and said Carlsbad has had a long military history. “Especially the National Guard, they’ve been called out and they go and they serve their country in any capacity, they weren’t necessarily drafted. They went and they just joined and they wanted to do something for our country,” he said. “We have a wonderful community here.”

Plumlee and others in the Honor Guard paid tribute to Carlsbad residents who made the ultimate sacrifice during a Memorial Day ceremony at Carlsbad Veteran’s Park May 27. “It just makes me so grateful to be able to do this. To have this many people to come out and to have this ceremony and this presentation. I’m touched from the beginning to the last. From the minute the Honor Guard sets up in front of the parade to the minute we’re standing here, it’s all just a strong and vibrant thanking and honoring our fallen veterans especially on Memorial Day,” he said.

“This day [Memorial Day] encompasses those who have died, those who have given their lives for our country and this nation. When I hear so many people are so grateful and then I see the faces out there of the people remembering their comrades and their fellow soldiers that have fallen beside them … I can see in their faces. They’re remembering that. To be here in Carlsbad and to be a part of this is just a blessing beyond my expression.”

Members of the Carlsbad Veterans Honor Guard get ready to fire a salute during the Carlsbad Memorial Day Ceremony.

The Honor Guard has been around for several years and Sam joined because he wanted to give back. “Being in the service, I saw the sacrifice of so many giving up their families and some giving up their lives. I felt like it was just something important to do to show the community we care,” he said.

Plumlee said the Honor Guard can be found at funerals for veterans and post colors for other events. “The thing that I’m most impressed with is the funerals that we do to honor veterans and their families. It always has a strong impact on me and the others when we do the three round volley and then we present the flag and tears just start to flow,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling that you’re giving back something.”

Sam said being in the Honor Guard gives him a sense of giving back to his fellow Vietnam veterans. “There’s always that intention of giving back to them and giving them respect and to remember them bravely and fondly. I think it causes us all to want to be a little more, even if it’s just in our community doing what we do every day,” he said.

Even though he’s been out of the military for a number of decades, Plumlee said being in the Honor Guard is what he’s supposed to be doing. “Our soldiers who fought before, they did it because that was the right thing to do. To me, this is the right thing to do and I wish we had more veterans that would step up and try to serve because our numbers sometimes get thin,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Story originally published in Focus on Carlsbad 2019: Summer Edition.