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James McConnell (center), of Marksville recalls his 14 years in the Army, including serving in the Korean War (1951-53,) with retired Air Force veteran Vincent Lacombe (left) and Vietnam War veteran Raleigh Guillory (right), both of the Hessmer-Belledeau area. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

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Avoyelles Veterans Monument at Paragon Casino Resort. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

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Veterans monument at Longhorn Community Center in Bordelonville. {Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham}

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Memorial monument to Avoyelles Parish men killed in the Vietnam War. {Photo by Tiffany Trichell}

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The Victory Belles perform at the annual Veterans Day event at the Avoyelles Veterans Memorial at Cottonport Bank in Mansura. {Photo by Tiffany Trichell}

Avoyelles' veterans honored in monuments, speeches, songs, fireworks

Veterans Day in Avoyelles is about more than flags and fireworks. It is about remembering the men and women who have fought in this nation’s wars -- and why they had to fight.

There were several Veterans Day events this past week.

Veterans attending the ceremony at the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe’s Avoyelles Veterans Memorial at the site of Paragon Casino laughed about their experiences in Korea, Vietnam and this nation’s more recent military operations.

At least 100 friends, family and fellow-soldiers attended the dedication of a memorial monument in Marksville to 15 Avoyelles Parish men who died in the Vietnam War.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham spoke at the dedication of a monument in Bordelonville.

Music and fireworks at the annual Avoyelles Veterans Monument at Cottonport Bank in Mansura celebrated the lives of veterans who served this nation -- those who died, those who were wounded and those who survived -- and the victories they ensured in this nation’s name.

VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL

Perhaps the most anticipated ceremony was the dedication of the Vietnam War memorial, unveiled on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) at the southern entry to Marksville on La. Hwy 1 near Walmart.

“It was perfect,” VFW 3139 Post Commander Nulen Moses said. “There is no other word to use.”

Moses said he had wanted to make the ceremony “a celebration of these men’s lives, a happy remembrance of their service.”

However, he said he was overcome by emotion during his remarks.

“There was good attendance and we received a lot of compliments about the monument,” Moses said. “We had family members from most of the 15 Avoyelles Parish men who died in that war.”

Moses said the VFW and American Legion are continuing fundraising efforts for a second memorial monument on the north end of Marksville.

“We would like to dedicate it on Memorial Day,” he said.

BORDELONVILLE

American Legion Post 343 unveiled a new veterans memorial at the community center on the grounds of the former Bordelonville High School.

The event last Saturday also added four names to the plaque of those killed in war. The plaque had held those who died in WWI and WWII. Casualties of this nation’s more recent wars were added during the Saturday event.

Abraham told the crowd that only 1 percent of Americans serve in the active duty military.

"That is a tragedy," he said. “Look at the veterans that have come before us -- the ones that make this ceremony possible to begin with.

“I wish there were more citizens that would take that step forward and say I am here to serve a greater good,” Abraham continued. “But, for those that do not, they can serve in other ways."

Abraham has served in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and in the National Guard.

Among those attending the ceremony was Clyde Williber, brother of Marine Cpl. Gerald Williber of Bunkie. He traveled from his current home in Baton Rouge with family members to the ceremony.

He recalled the day of his brother’s death.

“I had finished my tour in Da Nang, Vietnam, and was stationed in Arizona when I found out he had been killed.”

TUNICA-BILOXI TRIBE

About 100 people attended traditional ceremonies on Nov. 11 sponsored by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe at the Avoyelles Veterans Memorial on the site of Paragon Casino Resort.

The monument of a combat nurse tending to a wounded soldier as his comrades stand guard is one of the parish’s best known statues.

Naomi Lamartiniere, bugler for the Cenla Honor Guard, was guest speaker for the event.

Among the “faces of Veterans Day” was Korean War veteran James McConnell of Marksville, who served in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea and stayed in the Army for 14 years.

McConnell told fellow veterans stories of his Army days.

Also in attendance was R.H. Deason, 95, of Hessmer who served in the South Pacific during World War II.

He enlisted in the Army in early 1942, not long after the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We signed up for the duration of the war,” Deason recalled. “I left the Army on Dec. 31, 1945.”

COTTONPORT BANK

Later that night, Cottonport Bank once again threw a party in honor and celebration of veterans.

The three-woman singing group The Victory Belles, from the World War II Museum in New Orleans, entertained the crowd with World War II era hits and a happy birthday song to WWII vet Marc Dupuy, who turned 90 on Nov. 11. The event was capped by the annual fireworks display.

There were also events in Cottonport, Bunkie, Marksville, Fifth Ward and Plaucheville in the days leading up to and immediately following Nov. 11.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
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MARKSVILLE WEEKLY

105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
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