‘Today we are their family’ : Seven unaccompanied veterans honored and laid to rest Friday

Published 10:58 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

Seven unaccompanied veterans were laid to rest Friday during a special memorial service at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery.

Cemetery Director Dwayne Guidry said the service is a way to honor and pay final respects to those veterans without family members.

“We gather today to pay our final respects and to commit seven veterans from multiple branches who for reasons unknown had no one to take care of their final disposition,” Guidry said. “Today we are their family and we are here to honor their service to our nation and to place them in their final resting place.”

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The veterans, including six from Calcasieu Parish and one from St. Mary Parish, are now among the more than dozen veterans currently buried in the cemetery with no family to grieve for them.

Despite rain, dozens of area veterans, motorcycle clubs and community members came to pay their final respects for the fallen servicemen they never knew.

“These persons served their nation by protecting our liberty and our ideas in our military,” Rev. Clyde Thomas said. “Even in death we cannot abandon them…..”

“These guys are worthy of the recognition because of their dedication to serving their country,” Keli Compton, who served in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while in college, said. “They deserve any honor we can give them.”

Charlene LaCombe, who has played Taps at veterans ceremonies since the age of 13, wished more people would have attended the service.

“Everybody should be here,” she said. “If they live in the U.S. and enjoy their freedom, they should be here because these are the ones that gave them that freedom.”

Those veterans laid to rest with military honors were:

PVT Leonard Grission, Korean War veteran

PFC Michael Joseph Falgoust

PFC Jason Paul LeBlanc

PVT. Douglas Winson Smith, Vietnam veteran

ETN2 Jerry Dean Kulow, Vietnam veteran

PVT. Jimmy Griffy

Sgt. Mickel Richard Ponthieux

Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs, Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office,St. Mary Parish Coroner’s Office, and Johnson’s Funeral Home worked with the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery to ensure the veterans were honored with dignity, according to Guidry.