June 18, 2014

Retired U.S. Generals thank President Obama for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Nearly 70 retired generals from various branches of the United States military, including seven 4-star Generals, sent a letter today to President Obama in appreciation for the new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. 

President Obama established the 496,000-acre monument on May 21 using the executive authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to permanently protect these public lands near Las Cruces in Southern New Mexico. 

The letter, signed by 68 general officers with 2,290 total years of service to the nation, says that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is an important place for men and women serving in our Armed Forces to recuperate and recreate after returning from strenuous overseas missions and to reconnect with family and friends.  The designation also protects some of the Deming Bombing Targets, where World War II military history unfolded as bomber pilots and crew practiced using the Norden bombsight technology. 

Retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson said the Commander-in-Chief should be commended for responding to the community’s entreaties to protect the region. 

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will benefit the communities of southern New Mexico by boosting economic activity, providing a place for service men and women to recreate and recuperate, preserving important pieces of United States history, and ensuring that the beautiful landscape of the region will not be harmed,” Gen. Anderson said. “I applaud President Obama and Secretary Jewell for listening to the people of southern New Mexico and for working to see that this area received a national monument designation.” 

In addition, the generals’ letter responded to unfounded concerns about the border that have been raised by some opponents of the monument. 

“There is nothing in the President’s proclamation that prevents Border Patrol from continuing to do their job keeping these public lands among the most secure along the Southwest border,” Gen. Anderson said. 

In fact, according to a recent statement (http://bit.ly/RUcOIk) on the monument by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol: “This designation will in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility as we work to meet this ongoing priority… CBP is committed to continuing to work closely with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain border security while ensuring the protection of the environment along the border.” 

Retired Lieutenant General Clarence “Mac” McKnight also signed the letter. Among his 35 years of service with the U.S. Army was a tour as Commanding General of Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles north of the border with Mexico. He has also strong personal ties to New Mexico. Lieutenant General McKnight was stationed at White Sands Missile Range; his family lived at Fort Bliss (a U.S. Army base in New Mexico and Texas) while he served in Vietnam, and both of his daughters are graduates of the New Mexico State University-Las Cruces. 

Lieutenant General McKnight said the national monument designation is a sign of respect to Americans who have served in the military. “Throughout the course of American history, brave men and women have fought to protect not only the citizens of the United States and our shared values, but also the majestic public lands within our country’s borders,” he said. “The President’s designation ensures that the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains will forever greet the returning veterans of Las Cruces and the Southeast. They will always be there as a place where vets can come home and heal from the wounds of war on its trails and secluded spaces.” 

President Obama’s national monument proclamation came after more than a decade of efforts by New Mexicans to secure protections for these lands.  The designation is supported by veterans, elected officials, tribal governments, Hispanic organizations, business owners, sportsmen, conservationists, interfaith leaders, historians, equestrians, and many others.

A copy of the letter can be found at:  http://www.vetvoicefoundation.org/docs/Generals-Letter.pdf

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