‘Ultimate sacrifice’ honored

Event recognizes service of those who were lost

An afternoon of remembrance marked Saturday’s POW/MIA plaque dedication ceremony at the lakefront’s Veterans Park.

The event, hosted by the Clausen-Cornett chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, served as a reminder of the oath service members take “to never leave a fallen comrade behind,” said Fort Polk JRTC Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Dodson.

“We will never forget those who remain unaccounted for and continue to try to bring them all home,” Dodson said. “They have paid the ultimate sacrifice and that is the reason we do it.”

He said the men and women of the armed forces volunteered to serve something much more significant than themselves — their nation.

Dodson, who comes from a long line of Navy veterans, said he chose to go in a different direction and enlisted in the Army.

“Honestly, my original intention was to only come in for three years and serve and that was 23 years ago,” he said. “I fell in love with it.”

Dodson said the POW/MIA Accounting Agency has recovered 129 service members from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars since the beginning of the year.

“However, we still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “There are mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses and children who go to bed every night wondering if there is a chance that their loved one is still alive. They likely understand that the chance is minimal but not knowing for certain leaves an empty whole in your heart.”

Dodson said there are 72,960 service members from World War II, 7,699 from the Korean War and 1,597 from the Vietnam War who remain missing.

“When those families finally get their loved ones home, especial five or six decades later, and finally understand and know what happened and are able to put the whole thing behind them, it’s absolutely amazing,” Dodson said.

He said there are still 1,700 from the state of Louisiana who remain missing in action.

“They’re not just names on a piece of paper, they’re not just names on a wall in D.C., they’re not just remembrances in a museum,” Mayor Nic Hunter said. “We must acknowledge that these individuals were brothers, they were friends, daddies, they were members of our community.”

Larry Regan, vice president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1098, read the names of 24 Louisiana service members considered POW or MIA in the Vietnam War during the ceremony.

“Events like this give us a lot of credence when we say to other people around the country and around this world that Southwest Louisiana loves our veterans and appreciates our armed forces,” Hunter said.

He said it’s important to ensure that future generations never forget the sacrifices made for freedom.

Veterans Day

Fort Polk will be hosting a welcome home ceremony for Vietnam veterans during their Veterans Day observances at 10 a.m. Nov. 8.

“We want to give them the welcome home they never had,” said Scott Stearns, community relations chief at Fort Polk.

For more information, call 531-1392.