Veterans salute at the wreath laying ceremony during Fort Polk's Veteran's Day Celebration on Nov. 7 at Warrior Field as soldiers fire shots into the air to honor service members who have died. (Lauren Manary / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 07, 2013 9:34 PM
World War II veteran Cecil Walker uses poetry to help him describe his feelings about his time in the service and the flashbacks that haunted him in the years following.
Walker, a former U.S. Army ambulance driver and poet, was the special guest speaker at Fort Polk’s Veterans Day ceremony Thursday. He has written and recited poems for service member funerals. Poetry serves as a coping mechanism for him, he said, and helps to convey the emotional warfare endured by service members who have seen combat.
“My war experience it was not too awful or horrible,” Walker said. “I was never hit with ammunition of any kind, I don’t have any wounds, flesh wounds, but I did see some awful things and of course, I have flashbacks from that, from what I saw.”
Walker recited two original poems at the event.
“I live the war over everyday,” said Walker, 90, reciting his poem “Sacrifice: a Trooper’s Gift to His Country.” “How many time does a man have to pay?”
Brigadier Gen. William Hickman delivered the keynote address at the ceremony.
“On Veteran’s Day, I think about the 22 million former service members who never thought of themselves as special,” he said. “They thought of themselves as just doing their jobs.”
Rep. John Fleming, who represents Louisiana’s 4th district and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said Veterans Day is an important symbolic gesture to those who served and are still serving today.
“We have, of course, millions of veterans still living going all the way back to World War II, and we want to remember and certainly acknowledge and celebrate and, of course, many veterans who have gone on before,” Fleming said. “So we’re here today to recognize and acknowledge them and also to recommit ourselves to those surviving veterans, many of those still injured in some way, without a limb or two and then make a commitment to future veterans.”
World War II Navy veteran Jack Jones was one of dozens of local retired service members who attended the event. He served on the USS Tennessee during Pearl Harbor, and was on a submarine in the North Atlantic after the war ended. He is likely to be one of the few remaining World War II veterans still alive who fought in both the first and the last battles of the war.
He said life after war, for him, was an exercise in forgetting.
“After the war was over, I put it aside and went to work, made a life, had a family,” he said. “I just kind of put it aside.”
162d Infantry Brigade soldiers MSG. Michael Gibson and SFC. Marc Krugh laid the wreath at Warrior Field, commemorating the
veterans who served and those who died in combat. A veteran from each war since World War II was invited to stand and salute the wreath as “Taps,” the traditional song played in remembrance of fallen service members,
was played by SFC. Francesca Curry of the 115th Combat Support Hospital.
Sulphur Veterans Day parade: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, Maplewood Drive. The parade will feature the Fort Polk 162nd Infantry Brigade. Lineup will be at 8:30 a.m.; all entries must be in place by 9:30 a.m. Parade participants will enter from Beglis Parkway onto the west end of Maplewood Drive, between Walgreens and Kroger. After the parade, event-goers are invited to the SPAR Aquatics Center, 933 West Parish Road, where there will by a small car show and free laser tag.
Douglas B. Fournet statue dedication: 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, Veterans Memorial Park. A reception will be in the Civic Center Contraband Room after the ceremony. Fournet, a native of Lake Charles, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in April 1970.
Free meal: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, Le Beaucoup Buffet at the L’Auberge Casino Resort. Veterans and active-duty military personnel can get a complimentary breakfast or lunch.
Veterans breakfast: 9-10:30 a.m. today, Nov. 8, S.P. Arnett Middle School library, 400 Sulphur Ave., Westlake.
Take a veteran to school day: 9 a.m. today, Nov. 8, J.J. Johnson Elementary School, 500 Malcolm St. Students will learn more about the history of Veterans Day and about the experiences of veterans from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Veterans Day program for families: 9-10 a.m. today, Nov. 8, Combre-Fondel Elementary School, 2115 Fitzenreiter Road. Students are inviting family members who served in the military to check out the school’s “Avenue of Flags” in the front of the campus; hear pre-K students sing “Parade of Stars”; attend a reading of the history of each branch of the service; and watch the Washington-Marion High School Honor Guard present the colors.
Avenue of Flags: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery. Casket flags will line the drive through the cemetery in honor of fallen service members. The event will feature a history circle with replicas of eight previous U.S. flags. The memorial flags measure 5 by 91⁄2 feet.
Veterans Day Camp: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, BeauCare, 628 High School Drive. Camp is for ages 6-17. Fee for meal and supplies is $18 for ages 6-10 and $10 for ages 11-17. Call 462-2273 or visit www.beaucares.org.
Veterans program: 9 a.m. today, Nov. 8. Welsh High School and Welsh Elementary School will hold program in the high school gym. Veterans are invited.
Veterans Day at Veterans Home: 9:30 a.m. today, Nov. 8, Southwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, 1610 Evangeline Road, Jennings. There will be patriotic music and special readings. Guest speaker will be Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jerroll G. Arana.
Veterans plaque dedication: 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, Veteran’s Park, South Adams Street in Welsh. A flag retirement ceremony sponsored by the Welsh American Legion, VFW and Daughters of the American Revolution Live Oak Chapter will follow at the Welsh Museum, 202 E. South St. Refreshments will be served.
Veterans Day program: 8:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, James Ward Elementary School, 208 Shankland Ave., Jennings. Veterans and the public are invited to attend. Veteran family members may join their children or grandchildren for breakfast at 7 a.m. in the cafeteria. Call 824-1235.
Veterans coffee: Veterans are invited to visit any branch of the Allen Parish Library for coffee and doughnuts throughout the day Monday, Nov. 11. Displays of new military books and videos will be available.
Veterans program: 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, Kinder Elementary School gym. A reception honoring local veterans will be held in the school library afterward.
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