The Natchitoches Parish Veterans and Memorial Park was filled with veterans, families and area residents May 28 as the community held its annual Memorial Day Program. This year’s event was dedicated to the Gold Star Families of the Parish. These are families in which a member has died in service to our nation in time of war. The families of the deceased veterans from WWII through the Global War on Terror were recognized and honored with Gold Star Lapel pins. Two Gold Star widows and Two Gold Star mothers also received a bouquet of roses.
Scott Stetson, a retired Army NCO, combat Veteran, and Ranger served as the Master of Ceremonies. Air National Guard Chaplain Fr. John Brocato gave the opening prayer. The Lakeview High School Air Force Junior ROTC posted the colors while Sara Puryear Dunn sang the National Anthem. Donna Masson named each of the fallen and the names of the family members there to represent them.
WWII Gold Star family member, Willie Mae Smith, has done extensive research on her brother Paul Wesley Wilson who was killed in Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the Normandy landings that was attacked by German E-Boats. She has a series of articles on the disaster as well as a yearbook of Natchitoches parish men who served in WWII in which her brother appears. John Houston Cook, who was killed in the Korean War, had his Gold Star presented to Wayne Choate who stood in place of his brother, Jett Houston Cook a WWII veteran who was unfortunately unable to attend due to his health. Jett Houston Cook was awarded the Legion d’ Honneur in 2017 by the French government in recognition of his service. A moment of silence was observed after which Dr. John Dunn played Taps. Rev. Steven Harris, Sr. closed the program with a prayer.
A memorial paver was placed in the park in memory of PFC Charles Doty, killed in 1967 in Vietnam at the age of 21, His photo and a photo of his grave were also uploaded to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Virtual Wall. May his memory and the memory of all of the fallen from our community be a blessing.