Get High on Life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

HAROLD KELLER / L’Observateur / December 8, 1999

Dec. 7, 1941 was the beginning of 1,364 days of death, misery and brokenhearts known as World War II. On that day, the Japanese surprise attack onPearl Harbor killed 2,113 sailors and Marines, and destroyed 18 American warships.

I was seven years old at the time and can recall that Sunday in 1941 like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the football stadium at Leon GodchauxHigh School with my father. I don’t remember who won the game, but I dorecall Inez Madere Millet, in her band uniform, shouting to someone, “The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor!” I remember listening to war news on the radio for the next three or four years. I remember my grandmother worrying because she had four sonsserving their country. I can still remember playing baseball in St. Peter’sschoolyard when word can that one of my uncles, Aristide “Eaky” Keller, was killed in Europe. I remember food rationing, especially sugar andbutter. I know exactly where I was when I heard that th United States haddropped the A-bomb. I was at the Reserve Community Club swimming pool.I remember the end of the war and the pride that we Americans had. Wewere together. We had won the war.Let me encourage some of you who served during the war to share your experiences with our young people so they will never forget. We’ve hadother wars in the past 50 years and many men and women unselfishly gave their lives for our freedom. Let’s not forget the Vietnam veterans, theKorean veterans and our fighting men and women of the Persian Gulf.

I’m saddened that most young people and their parents don’t know anything about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Pres. Franklin Roosevelt called the Dec.7 attack a day to be remembered as a “day of infamy.”As I look back, the most impressive action during that war was the willingness of our young men and women from the River Parishes who volunteered anxiously to defend our freedom – unafraid. Yes, brave men andwomen willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Not to rememberis an insult to their service and sacrifice.

I do not have a list of the people from St. Charles and St. James parisheswho gave their lives during the war, but I do hae a record of the ones from St. John the Baptist Parish who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Biblesays that no greater love does one have than to lay down his life for his fellow man.

The following men died fighting and protecting us. I mention all of theirnames so that we might never forget their love for us and their country – Walter Bergeron, Leo Boutte, Peter Caravella, Alfred Chapoton Jr., LarryEnglade, Lionel Hymel, Sidney Johnston J r., Aristide “Eaky” Keller, AllenKlibert, Henry LaBranche, Arthur Lasseigne, Larry Lasseigne, Louis Lorio Jr., Marcel Madere, Robert Michel Jr., Raymond Millet, C.J. Montegut III,Nolan Montz, Roy Montz, Vince Palermo, Edward Remondet, Marion Robert, Sterling Rome, Lloyd Schexnayder, Camille Simon, Joseph Sutton, Roger Tassin, Gillespie Templain Jr., Eldon Theard, Robert Vicknair and SamuelVillemont.

In all, 31 from St. John parish were killed – six from the Navy, three fromthe Marines, 16 from the Army, five from the Air Corps and one from the Coast Guard.

I pray that we will never forget Dec. 7, 1941, and that history will notrepeat itself.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

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