‘Long overdue’: New Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated

Published 10:35 am Saturday, November 19, 2022

A large crowd gathered at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park on Friday for the dedication of a new Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

For many the dedication was part of a long healing process over four decades in the making.

“This is long overdue,” Vietnam veteran Philip Dupuis of Iota said. “We were never welcomed home when we came back, so this is long overdue.”

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Vietnam veteran Buford Lejeune of Jennings, who helped design the memorial, said it represents all those who served and those who lost their lives in the war.

Former Jennings mayor Greg Marcantel said the memorial has been three years in the making, but proudly stands today to honor and remember those who bravely served and made the supreme sacrifice during the Vietnam War, including members of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1058 of Jeff Davis Parish who were instrumental in finding a home for the memorial.

“The group that worked on it were dogged, determined and could not be denied,” Marcantel said. “It must be the way they fought the war in Vietnam.”

Those soldiers who fought in Vietnam and all the other parts of the world in the most difficult time were the best and bravest that the country had to offer, Marcantel said.

Pastor Kerry Doucet, whose father served in Vietnam, said, “We love you. We honor you. We care for you and we certainly haven’t forgotten about you and the sacrifice that you have made.”

State Rep. Troy Romero, who was a 14-year-old junior high school student when the Vietnam War ended, also welcomed the veterans home.

“This is a big day for Jeff Davis Parish, for District 37, the state of Louisiana and it’s a big day to honor these veterans that went to Vietnam and fought so hard,”Romero said. “I hope that many, many people from across the land will come back and visit this and see the sacrifices the Vietnam veterans made.”

Jennings Mayor Henry Guinn said it is the duty of elected officials to continue to remember and recognize the veterans that served through monuments and memorials.

Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland, who served two combat tours in Vietnam, said the monument will help tell the stories of those who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

“It’s another chance to set the record straight because history will honor our service and our names will join a story of service that stretches back two centuries,” Strickland said. “Let us understand that the Vietnam Wall in Washington, though appreciated, does not define the Vietnam warrior. It merely stands for our sacrifice, but it is parks and memorials in cities and small towns such as Jennings that keep alive what is meant to be a Vietnam veteran.”

“For myself, as well as others, the only thing we ever asked for was respect,” he continued. “Respect for ourselves because we persevered through some of the most brutal conditions ever faced by Americans in combat. The suffocating heat. The drenching monsoon rain. …an enemy that could come out of nowhere in the jungle and vanish just as quickly, some of the most intense urban combat in history and a battle for a single hill that could rage for weeks.”

Strickland said it is important for children to understand the sacrifices made by the troops in Vietnam and that it is more than just a name in a history book.