A celebration of service

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2011

By David Vitrano

And Robin Shannon


GRAMERCY and LAPLACE – As it does every year, St. James Parish honored local veterans in style with a grand celebration at the Welcome Center in Gramercy Thursday evening.

Hot gumbo was the remedy for cold temperatures as the sizeable crowds huddled in tents and the barn sipping on the hot elixir as they watched children from parish schools and local dance troupes perform patriotic numbers.

Members of the Lutcher VFW dotted the area, clearly visible in their green jackets and black garrison hats, but other veterans filled the ground, too, some from the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve and others who live in surrounding parishes.

“It was beautiful,” Veterans Home resident Joseph Christian Granier, a veteran of the Navy, said, adding with a smile, “We couldn’t see the young girls dancing, though.”

Naval Air Force veteran and fellow Veterans Home resident Daniel Thomas Becnel agreed, saying, “I think it was a wonderful event. The food was good, too.”

Outside the barn, soldiers from the Army’s 1084th Transportation Company in Reserve displayed some of the company’s huge transport vehicles.

The evening’s festivities ended with a grand fireworks display.

On Friday in St. John Parish, scores of residents showed up at the Reserve Veterans Home to show appreciation to residents of the home and veterans in the surrounding area. The home also served as the concluding point for the first annual St. John Parish Veterans Day parade, which traveled from LaPlace down Airline Highway to the home.

“The event turned out to be bigger than I ever could have imagined,” said St. John Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Bertrand, who organized the parade with the help of the Young Marines Program.

“This is what it is all about. Gathering the veterans together to celebrate their sacrifices and their lives. You can see that it truly means a lot to them,” he said.

Local veterans who came out for the event said the parade and party that followed at the home went above and beyond normal expectations.

“This feels just great,” said Garyville resident and World War II veteran Marine Clyde Hymel, who led off the parade. “The outpouring of support from strangers who come up to give us respect and congratulations, it really means a lot. Every veteran will tell you that.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the event made history and sets the bar high for future parades in coming years.

“This can only get bigger over time,” Robotom said. “We have strong community support for veterans of this area and we will continue to do them right.”

At the conclusion of the opening ceremonies, a group from the Louisiana Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association came forward to present a check for $1,127 for use in the recreation room at the Veterans Home. The money was raised through a poker run the motorcycle group conducted last weekend.