The River Region celebrates those who served in forces

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009



RESERVE – Jon Salter, chief administrator for the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home, said it best when he described the nation’s war veterans as “ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things in service to our country.”

“Fewer than 10 percent of all Americans can say that they are military veterans,” Salter said. “But America owes a serious debt to those men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of our country.”

Making those connections between ordinary and extraordinary was the underlying theme of the annual Veterans Day program at the War Veterans Home in Reserve Tuesday. More than 150 veterans from the home and the surrounding area gathered together to honor the sacrifices of those who fought to keep America free.

“He’s the cop on the street that manned a gunboat or the driver behind the wheel of the bus who held off enemy fire,” said First Lt. Michael Benoit, an Iraqi War veteran who spoke to the crowd. “He’s also the white-haired man in line at the grocery, annoyingly slow as he counts out his money, who helped to liberate a Nazi prison camp. We need to recognize and remember that veterans are all around us in places we may not imagine.”

Following presentation of the colors, by the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, and a singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Valerie Freeman and Otis Scott, the veterans were entertained with a series of essays written and read by elementary and high school students from the St. John Parish area. Some of the writings spoke of Benjamin Franklin, the Boston Tea Party and the California gold rush, while others explained the value that war veterans hold in everyday life.

At the conclusion of the program, the crowd moved outside for a flag resting ceremony – a systematic and formal burning of a tattered and worn American Flag.

“The flag is torn into pieces and burned one stripe at a time, followed by the burning of the field of blue stars,” said Ret. Marine Jules Walsdorf, a World War II veteran. “Each piece of the flag has a significant meaning that is read aloud as it is thrown into the fire.”

The ceremony concluded with a reading of the names of the men and women from the home who died in the past year, followed by a moment of silence and a playing of taps.