LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A group of veterans toured sites in the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument a day after a bill was introduced to protect the land in Dona Ana County.
Organized by the Vet Voice Foundation, more than a dozen veterans serving in World War II to more recent wars, spent the day learning about the history and significance of the land.
"Veterans care about public land areas in the Organ Mountains because they are places where we go seek refuge and solace," said Mark Starr, VFF Program Director.
Starr applauded the legislation introduced by Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in congress that would establish the national monument.
Tony Cano, a member on the tour and Army veteran, said hiking up the mountains helped with the healing process after serving in seven different combat tours.
"Being a combat veteran this is kind of my sanctuary," he said.
Cano recalled being stationed at White Sands Missile Range and bringing his daughter out hiking.
He said she asked him if she could touch the clouds because at elevation they cut into the recognizable needles of the Organs.
"She was actually able to put her hands up and that's something we remember," Cano said.
Veteran Peter Ossorio describes the as Superman's Fortress of Solitude where he can find peace outdoors.
Ossorio said the lands have been passed down generation after generation and should be protected.
"My father-in-law actually walked the Dripping Springs Trail when he was 90," Ossorio said fondly.