Memorial Day is a time to remember Veterans who died while serving in the military. Below are three Natchitoches residents’ memories of loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Leta Townsend Brown has service men everywhere in her family. Her father, the late Alton Lloyd Townsend, was a pilot in the Army Air Corps in WWII, which later became the U.S. Air Force. His brother, the late Louis Claude Townsend, was in the Navy and his other brother, the late Larry “Hot Shot” Townsend, was in the Army. The last sibling is their sister Claudine Hart, who lives in Shreveport. She worked at Barksdale Air Force Base where she met her husband, who was a pilot.
Alton was a football player at Northwestern State University. He was attending First Baptist Church on a Sunday morning when they heard Pearl Harbor was bombed. Soon after the entire football team enlisted.
Alton’s plane, a B25G Bomber with a cannon in the nose, was shot down over China and he and the crew were captured by Japanese soldiers. They spent 22 months as POWs until WWII ended.
Here is his story:
Alton trained on the B25G in the states. He was assigned as a co-pilot for a mission in India during the Pacific Theatre. The pilot had no training on the plane, so when they made their first pass to drop bombs, they didn’t hit their target. The pilot decided to make another pass and the plane was shot down. The crew was captured and packed like sardines into rail cars as they traveled from China to Japan. While crossing the Sea of Japan their ships were bombed by Americans, unaware there were POWs onboard.
“My father was always a humble southern gentleman,” said Leta. “He passed away three years ago close to the age of 93. He felt he was doing his job by serving his country, and he was grateful to come back home.”
Leta’s husband Ron Brown served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. Ron’s father, the late Ron Calvin Brown, served in the Army during WWII and his brother, the late Charles Brown, served in Vietnam. Leta’s brother, the late Alton Townsend Jr., also served in the Vietnam War.
To Leta, Memorial Day stands for sacrifice. Her father always said liberty isn’t free.
“All veterans, those living and gone, pay a tremendous sacrifice to protect out freedom,” said Leta. “As a state employee it’s always a great tribute for me to go to a Memorial Day program.”
This Memorial Day Eddie Harrington will remember four great American heroes: Billy Harrington, Edward Monroe “Bugs” Allbritton, George Allbritton and M.Q. Dominy.
Eddie’s grandfather Billy was in the Army Air Corps in WWII with a B-26 bomber squadron. He met his wife Nancy, while stationed in England. By the time he retired he was working with A-10 tank killers.
Eddie’s maternal grandfather Bugs was in the Army and had the horrendous experience of being among the first to enter and liberate concentration camps.
George was a combat marine in the Pacific. M.Q. Dominy was in H.Q. in the 6th Army in WWII on the front in Europe. He personally met General Eisenhower, General Patton, General Bradley and British General Montgomery.
“These are just five heroes out of countless men and women who gave up so much, who gave their lives to do what is right, to fight pure evil, and to protect us,” said Eddie. “I could only strive to be half a man they were, and all of those like them.”
Dr. Ron McBride’s mother and father sacrificed beyond imagination during WWII. His father, the late Major Elmer O. McBride, fought in the Korean Conflict. He never spoke much about his time under Gen. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge.
“The atrocities he must have witnessed were unspeakable,” said Ron. He did share one thing:
As a 5th Army Captain he commanded an artillery unit. Patton would drive down the line to speed up progress for moving the largest mechanized army in history. He would blame the officers for the slow movement and break them down to Privates. When the word came down that Patton was on a tear the officers would try and hide to prevent conflict with him.
“Dad spoke freely about his other tours but just couldn’t speak about WWII,” said Ron. “He was my hero. He was a career military man who loved his country. I have never met a greater patriot than he. He was part of the ‘Greatest Generation’ in American history. I will always remember his love and dedication to country and never forget the contributions of all Americans during the darkest time in U.S. history.”
Ron said he believes that young Americans must read about the sacrifices Americans have made, especially in the military.
“They couldn’t enjoy the luxuries they have without the military and veterans who served to keep our country free and (except for 911 and the Civil War) the scars of battle in the homeland,” he said. “Memorial Day stands as a living testament for the sacrifices millions have made, and should be a reminder for young people that our country remains the greatest in the world because of their contributions.”