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Celebrating veterans on Memorial Day

One of the best kept secrets in South Louisiana is the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home. The facility is a beautiful state building located on Airline Highway in Reserve. It is the home for more than 150 veterans, many unable to care for themselves. Possibly, it is the last stop on earth before meeting their Creator.  
For the past six years, I have been privileged to emcee the home’s Memorial Day service. It’s an honor I enjoy as much as anything I participate in during the year.  
What makes this place so special is the real heroes who call this place home. Some are in wheelchairs, on oxygen or bedridden, and a few don’t understand where they are.  
Having a nice building is a good thing, but what makes it so special is having such a caring and capable staff, along with many volunteers.
I’m invited every year by Paul Hiestand, the assistant administrator, and Sonya Hebert, who is the head of recreation. I’ve heard it said that if a person earns a living at a job they love and have a passion for, they never have to work. Both go above and beyond the call of duty, and to them it’s more of a ministry than a job.  
This year’s program had a
typical agenda, but missing were the 76 veterans who had passed away since last Memorial Day.  
As usual, the program was well organized by Paul and Sonya, assisted by the staff, volunteers and family members. Joseph Sciambra, a World War II veteran, led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Otis Scott, who sang the National Anthem.  
Anna Sanders, USAF, president of the Women Veterans of Louisiana, shared about the history of women in wartime service. The Marine Corps League of Kenner, Detachment 579, had a special flag folding ceremony. That was not only an inspiring display of patriotism, but a very spiritual message. The Combat Vets Motorcycle Association honored the fallen heroes and presented Paul and Sonya a check for $9,580 to be used for the recreation building.
The program then ended outdoors with veterans Herman Bonnette and Rudolph Baker placing a memorial wreath at the flagpole, followed by American Legion Post 509 of Ama performing the Flaming Helmet ceremony, remembering the veterans who have died.
As balloons were released, Deacon Richard Abbondante of St. Peter’s Catholic Church  closed with a prayer.
If you have any questions or comments, please write to Get High on Life, P.O. Drawer U, Reserve, LA 70084, call 985-652-8477, or email hkeller@comcast.net.