Gone, but never forgotten

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 2, 2012



LAPLACE – War veterans in St. John the Baptist Parish, from all branches of the armed forces, were not forgotten this past Memorial Day weekend as a pair of stirring tributes to soldiers living and dead were held in the area.

At the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve, residents gathered for a ceremony that began in the main dining hall and ended outside with a model airplane flyover and a moving memorial to those residents who passed away in the past year.

Sonya Hebert, activities director for the Veterans Home, read off a list of more than 20 names of residents who passed on. The names were dropped into an army hat resting on a trio of rifles for what is known as a flaming helmet memorial to fallen soldiers. Residents also laid a wreath at the foot of the home’s flagpole on the front lawn.

“They left a mark on all of us and gave so much in the fight for freedom,” Hebert said during the ceremony. “We will remember them always.”

Back inside, those in attendance listened to speeches from parish leaders like St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom, who said memorials of this fashion should happen more often than once a year.

“It is important to take time out each day to remember those men and women who made that ultimate sacrifice,” Robottom said. “Some did not make it back home. Today’s ceremony is one of many ways to honor our heroes living and dead.”

The ceremony also included a check presentation from the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, a local biker group that raises money for area veterans’ facilities. The group presented the home with a more than $8,200 check raised during a recent ride in St. John.

On Saturday, a group of about 23 St. John Parish Young Marines spread out across area cemeteries to place American flags at gravesites with veteran and military markers.

“It was a tradition we started on Memorial Day last year,” said Young Marine Unit Commander Brian Bertrand. “The kids in the group have a great respect for the veterans living in this parish. They understand the sacrifices. This kind of thing is very important to them.”

Bertrand said the Young Marines assisted members of the VFW placing flags at St. John Memorial Gardens in LaPlace. The group then moved to St. Peter Cemetery in Reserve to place additional flags. Bertrand said between the two locations, his platoon placed more than 400 flags on burial plots and tombs.