Conejos County Veterans Service Officer pays tribute


CONEJOS COUNTY — On Veterans Day, Conejos County Veterans Service officer Robert Lockwood said these words of tribute at the memorial service for Clinton Betenbough, a Veteran who recently passed away at the age of 101. Reprinted here is what Lockwood said at the service.

"It is a great honor to speak today about the oldest and last WW II veteran of Conejos County, and possibly the oldest veteran in the entire San Luis Valley. I hope today is not a complete day of sadness for his passing but rather a tribute to his life and legacy.

"Sgt. Clinton G. Betenbough led a wonderful life. He was born on May 9, 1922 2 ½ years after the end of WW I. During that era, women were given the right to vote. By the time he was one, Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight, and the star-spangled banner was adopted as our country's national anthem.      

"Betenbough graduated from high school in 1940, and voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army, serving in the 1st Infantry Division known as "The Big Red One." In his late teens and 20's he was stationed in England, France, and after D-Day, in Germany. He received orders to deploy to Japan but the Japanese surrendered two days later, ending World War II. He was honorably discharged in September 1945.

"In his 30's he witnessed the Korean War and the first American satellite launched into space. In his 40's the Cuban Missile Crisis, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Sen. Robert Kennedy, and Malcolm X. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and rights under Miranda were established. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, and the Vietnam War came to an end.

"He witnessed Sandra Day O'Connor become the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice, the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, the Cold War, and the fall of the Iron Curtain. In his 70's he and all Americans witnessed the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building. In his 80's the falling of the Twin Towers on 9/11, and the election of the first African American President, Barack Obama. In his 90's he stopped cattle ranching (96 years old), he witnessed the ban lifted on women serving in combat units, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Boston Marathon tragedy, and the eruption of the COVID 19 pandemic. At 101, just two weeks before his passing, he experienced sickness for the 1st time ending his life after surpassing a Century. He passed on November 3, 2023.

"These are the life experiences and memories movies should be made of. This was a man who volunteered with the possibility of making the ultimate sacrifice for his selfless service to his country, a man who didn't complain about the state of the world or his country, but rather took action to protect it. A man who raised his family to know that respect was something earned not given freely, and that love had many faces all of which he shared with his family and friends. This man and his generation broke the mold of being tough as nails. Our country today lacks in men of his integrity, doing the right thing even when no one is watching, doing things based on pride and honor, duty and sacrifice. He did this not for accolades but just because it was right and just.

"I believe that Sgt. C.G. Betenbough would not have expected a pat on his back for his sacrifices in life, but he would have expected us all to live better and with an obligation to each other as citizens of this great country which men and women alike have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today.

"From Armistice Day in 1919 to Veterans Day since 1954, we honor all Veterans of our armed forces, including Sgt. C.G. Betenbaugh. Whether a Veteran of war or peacetime, a Veteran of active duty, national guard, or reserves, a Veteran is a Veteran! Be sure to thank them for their service because we all owe them a great debt. May God bless you all, and may he bless the United States of America, and bless all our Veterans who served our country honorably."