Sacrifices of Service: Annual Memorial Day Prayer Breakfast spotlights armed services

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

LAPLACE — When Elzie B. Galloway Jr. was 17 years old, he claimed to be 18 so he could enlist in the U.S. Navy and save his family from financial hardships.

Tina Galloway-Edler grew up hearing her father’s story, and it instilled within her the selflessness and sacrifice that comes along with service.

“All the money that my daddy made in the Navy, he sent home,” Edler said. “He wants to help other people no matter the circumstance.”

Edler and her father attended Get High on Life’s 20th annual Memorial Day Prayer Breakfast Friday morning to pay tribute to the men and women who fought for freedom and honor those who never returned from overseas.

Hosted by Harold Keller, the program included guided prayer, presentation of colors from the St. John Parish Color Guard and music honoring the five branches of the Armed Forces.

Miss VFW Post 5852 Cassidy Mistretta, above, helps at the breakfast.

A reading of the poem “Freedom is Not Free” invoked images of graveyards at the bottom of the sea, unmarked graves in Arlington National Cemetery and mothers’ tears as payment for human rights.

Edler has volunteered at the Memorial Day Prayer Breakfast for more years than she could recount, and her husband, Ched, has participated for the last seven.

Ched’s late father, Hardy J. Edler, also served in the Navy, and it’s become a family tradition to honor service in the River Parishes each Memorial Day.

Keller said the fight for freedom has touched more local families than people realize. In the 1940s, when the rural town of Reserve was the center point of St. John Parish, families across town mourned the loss of their sons, fathers and friends.

“St. John Parish was very small, and 31 men from this parish died in the second World War,” Keller said.

Harold Keller speaks at the event with great granddaughters Adeline and Olivia by his side.

One was Keller’s Uncle “Eaky.”

“My daddy had four brothers. He didn’t go into service because he was the oldest. Two of my uncles went to the Atlantic and two went to the Pacific. One never came home.”

People don’t forget where they stood when delivered Earth-shattering news, according to Keller.

He recalls sitting at the Leon Godchaux football stadium with his father at age 7 when a girl in a band uniform ran over to announce the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

More than 70 years later, Keller still sees the pattern of the band uniform and feels the fear that fell over everyone in the stadium the moment they collectively realized the cost of freedom.

Veterans stand to be recognized during a song performed at the prayer breakfast.

It inspires him to keep the prayer breakfast thriving each year with countless invitations through direct phone calls.

Vietnam veteran Danny Terrio and his wife Donna attend each year to listen to the presentation alongside American Legion and VFW members, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home representatives and community volunteers.

The most impactful memory he has from the Memorial Day Prayer Breakfast came years ago, when an elderly woman walked to the front of the room holding a child’s dress that she wore years ago in Hawaii when the Pearl Harbor attack was occurring.

“All of us in the military know about the men fighting, but this was an innocent little girl, and she was right there in it,” Terrio said. “I thought that was pretty amazing.”