Aging veterans receive overdue medals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009


RESERVE — Governor Bobby Jindal paid a visit to St. John Parish last Friday afternoon to hand out service medals to the veterans living at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve.

Joined by Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Lane Carson and Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, Adjutant General of the Louisiana National Guard, Jindal awarded more than 130 medals that celebrate and honor the service of all Louisiana men and women who fought for the United States.

“I’m here to say thank you to these brave men and women who ran toward danger instead of away from it,” Jindal said. “We’re forever grateful for the sacrifices veterans have made on our behalf.”

Friday’s ceremony, which included every veteran living at the home, was part of a series of celebrations statewide that has become known as the Veterans’ Honor Medal Program. The program, which is managed by the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, was created through legislation signed by the governor in 2008.

One side of the gold-plated medal shows the state of Louisiana with the imprint of a fleur de lis in the middle and the words “United States Armed Forces” above and below. The other side bears the words “Louisiana appreciates your service to our country.”

Veterans who sustained a wound in battle received an honor medal designated by a silver star and a purple ribbon. Families of veterans who were killed in action received an honor medal designated by a gold star and a gold ribbon. Medals for veterans who were prisoners of war came with a black ribbon, and all other wartime veterans received a blue ribbon.

“As I was handing out medals in one location, one of the men told me, ‘You don’t have to give me a medal. We did this because we love our country, not to be honored,’” Jindal said, speaking of one of the veterans in isolation at the Reserve home. “That one statement speaks volumes for the character of all veterans.”

While awarding the medals, Governor Jindal told stories of some of the medal recipients to highlight some of the heroic acts of Louisiana veterans. One of those veterans was Harvard Ollar, a Missouri man who was stationed at Fort Polk before deployment to France to fight in World War II.

Ollar stormed Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Days after the initial invasion, he was shot in combat. Three bullets passed through the lining of his helmet and went down into his back. Bullet fragments remain in his back to this day. According to Jindal, Ollar’s courageous service earned him a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star.

His extensive wounds would not allow him to continue on active duty, but Ollar continued his service in an Army mess hall in France. After an honorable discharge, he came back to Louisiana and married Wanda St. Martin, a girl he met while training at Fort Polk.

After the military, Ollar worked at the Department of Social Services for 19 years where he served as a hearing officer. He was married to Wanda for 63 years before she passed away. He and Wanda had four children who visit Ollar every day at the war veterans home.