Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Telling: El Paso" Our Veterans. Their Stories. Flickinger Center, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On Sunday, May 22, 2016, my husband, Doug, and I attended the Adam Clayton Powell biopic at the Townsend Library housed on the NMSU-A campus in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was an excellent film and a good discussion ensued at the end of which, attendee Wacinque Armistad Kaizen BeMende, who retires on June 30, 2016 with 40 years of military service, invited everyone  to come to the Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday evening, May 25, 2016 at 7:00 PM to hear five veterans from "Telling: El Paso" tell their stories.

This was an impromptu presentation starting out with five empty chairs on the stage. A young woman comes out on the stage to announce the event (I apologize for not getting her name.). Then, four men and one woman come out one at a time each taking a chair on stage and one by one, they begin telling their stories.

In December, 2015, Max Rayneard, the Telling Project's senior writer and producer, interviewed these veterans and their spouses. From those interviews, Rayneard constructed a script that interweaves stories of service into a one-act play. Hector Serrano, an El Paso native, retired EPCC professor of drama and English, and area theatre professional, began the process of performance training and directing rehearsals with the cast of local veterans (there are six originally; one was unable to be in this particular show).

Telling: El Paso was the 40th production of The Telling Project since its inception in 2008. KCOS 13 of El Paso is a co-sponsor. One of the performances will be filmed and will air on KCOS near Veterans Day 2016.

For many civilians, the realities of war are just images on the local news from far-off lands in upheaval. Most only hear about war from talking heads, not from those who lived it. In Telling: El Paso, a performance piece organized by playwright Max Rayneard, six local veterans are given a voice to share their stories of service and coming home.

What they share will make you laugh, and make you cry. If the opportunity arises again, you should make a point to see this short play. They do such an excellent job of telling the good, the bad and the ugly and their stories are mesmerizing.

Introducing the play
Fortunato S. (Tito) Lechuga served the Marine Corps proudly in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He received a Bronze Star with a combat V for Valor, a Meritorious Unit Commendation with one Bronze Star, and a Vietnam Service Metal with three Bronze Campaign Stars. He was also awarded a Gallantry Cross Color with Palm, Purple Heart Metal with one Gold Star, a Combat Action Ribbon, and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Metal. Tito worked as a warehouseman and for the Teamsters Organization for 30 years and ten years as Security for ICE. He is married to Dr. Mary Helen Lechuga and has five sons: Alan, Michael, Omar, Eric, Ivan and six grandchildren.
Felix Arenas served in the US Army at Ft. Bliss, and later in the US Navy where he found his career in corporate communications. He considered himself MULTIMEDIA years before there was such a term, working in broadcasting, marketing, photography, video, screenwriting, and later in computer graphics. Felix harbors a deep love of personal stories, old photographs, and family histories. He finds balance between professional and creative endeavors, a lifelong love of physical fitness, and the grounding of family and traditions.
Wacinque Amistad Kaizen BeMende enlisted in the USMC in 1975, he is a Jack of all Services. Navy Sea Duty, Air Force Reserve, AGR-USAF, Army, Army Reserves, Wyoming ANG, Wyoming NG, Coast Guard Auxiliary plus appointment as an honorary member of US coast Guard. A lay historian of African American service from the Militia in the 1600's, the American Revolution to present day. He retires 30 June 2016 with 40 years of service achieving E-7 in the Air Force and Army. He received a BS degree with honors from Upper Iowa University and has created a consulting company to continue spreading the asset building initiative that changed the lives of US Colored Troops in 1864 to all youth around the world today.
Linda Hinchey served thirteen years (1977-1990) in the U.S. Air Force as an Intelligence analyst supporting F-111 and F-15 Tactical Fighter Wings. After a ten year break and transitioning in the Army National Guard, seven of those years (2002-2009) she was in the Counterdrug program working with law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt criminal organizations growing, manufacturing, and/or distributing controlled substances. During a deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, she drove a Combat HET (Heavy Equipment Transporter) moving tanks throughout Iraq and proved vital intelligence for the convoys. While serving in the military she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's Degree in Management.
Jeffrey Garret Wells "Animal" was born and raised in El Paso, TX. He volunteered for the U.S. Army and graduated from the Military Police Corps in 1998. He served various assignments in Virginia, Germany, and Fort Bliss and later deployed to Iraq attached to the 4th Infantry Division and was part of dozens of combat military operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jeffrey was honorably discharged from Army service in 2004. His current and most proud achievement is being a full time husband, and father of two girls, Marilyn Harper (2 1/2 years) and Evelyn Aileen (1 year). Jeffrey volunteers with 22 is 22 Too Many to raise awareness on Veteran Suicide, as he continues to face his ongoing battle with the demon. He has also toured with acts such as Overkill, Flotsom and Jetsom, Pissing Razors, Hemlock, Section 6, and Cowboys From Hell Paso.
Taking the Military Oath of Service
Mr. BeMende (far right) barking orders
A military salute to all
If you would like to know more about The Telling Project go to:

We had a lovely visit with most of the cast in the Founders Hall next door to the Flickinger. Also Flori McElderry and her husband were there with friends so it was a great opportunity for conversation, eating some excellent ice cream, and getting to know these veterans even better. If the opportunity arises, I highly recommend you attend The Telling Project production. You will not be bored!

Thanks to Douglas A. Kerr, Photography for the wonderful pictures.

This is all I have to say for now.

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