World War II veteran honored in New Mexico community

By ADRIAN C. HEDDEN | Carlsbad Current-Argus, N.M. | Published: September 5, 2018

CARLSBAD, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — He fought in Okinawa.

He fought in Iwo Jima.

Both some of the biggest naval battles in military history, and pivotal moments in World War II.

At 93 years old, Calvin Strickland was honored for his service to the U.S. Navy Tuesday in his hometown of Carlsbad.

As he entered the Leo Sweet Community Center, Strickland was met by a color guard, the Carlsbad High School band and applause from numerous residents and dignitaries.

Each year, the State of New Mexico sends veterans to Washington D.C. to be honored.

Strickland, a former teacher in Carlsbad, was unable to make that ceremony due to declining health and hospice care.

Instead, he was honored in a speech by New Mexico Department of Veterans Services Secretary Jack Fox, who also read a letter from Gov. Susana Martinez.

Fox said Strickland's sacrifice, and those of other World War II veterans, must be noted for the global implications of the war.

"We're honoring an individual today that is the epitome of sacrifice," Fox said. "When he wasn't teaching, he was busy saving the world."

The Second World War was different from others, Fox said, because it was fought across the world, and the enemy threatened more than just the United States.

Still, American troops stood up for democracy, he said.

"In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and the world changed," Fox said. "The sacrifices of that generation are truly staggering. They did not only answer the call for their country, but for the entire world. Calvin was one of those young boys who chose to fight for their country.

"It was on his back that the weight of the world was carried. When these young people put on their uniforms today, they look to you (Strickland) as an example."

In her letter, Martinez commended Strickland's service during a time of patriotism and limited technology, compared with modern-day warfare.

"Your service not only ensured the safety of our country, but it also helped stop the spread of imperialism through Asia, bringing an end to the greatest war known to civilization," she wrote. "Know that your service and sacrifice is greatly appreciated by me personally, and by the citizens of New Mexico.

"Our country's freedom does not come free. America remains free thanks to the men and women like you, who are willing to put your lives on the line in order to protect."

Ron Singleton, a Carlsbad Municipal School Board member and former teacher who worked alongside Strickland followed Fox's presentation, harkening back to days in the classroom where he said he saw a dedicated educator in Strickland.

He was the best math teacher Carlsbad ever saw, Singleton said.

"One of the things I remember the most about you is you were a true advocate of education," Singleton said to Strickland. "Your heart bled math. Calvin is probably the best math teacher we've had. Our kids are not being taught like you taught them.

"You set an example that's hard to follow."

That example was also set in Strickland's home.

His son Dean Strickland spoke about a father who was intelligent, but also tough enough to resolve conflicts among the children at school.

"I always thought he was smarter than the other dads. And he was," Dean Strickland said. "Dad was also tough, as I have witnessed him break up a fight at the high school."

The Strickland's were not wealthy when he was growing up, Dean said, but his father taught his sons the importance of hard work and ethics.

"We were not well to do, but I think Dad wanted to instill in us that there were things more important than money," he said. "When I look back, we did alright."


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