Memorial Day 2023 is Commemorated in Natchitoches Parish

Kevin’s Gallery

“…Embrace these, Father, and receive them, thy heroic servants into thy kingdom…”
From President Franklin Roosevelt’s remarks to the Nation on D-Day

Natchitoches’ downtown riverbank was filled with veterans, families, and area residents on May 29 as our community held its annual Memorial Day Program.

Jeremy Miller, NSU Army ROTC alumni, former Army officer and combat veteran, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Air Force veteran Nettles Brown gave the opening prayer. Kayla Terrell performed a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem. After the Anthem, Sheriff Wright and his grandchildren led the Pledge of Allegiance. Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams welcomed the crowd. He was joined on the stage by Natchitoches Fire Chief John Wynn, Sheriff Stuart Wright, Parish President John Richmond, and Police Chief Nikeo Collins. Chief Collins introduced Colonel Aristotle Vaseliades, Colonel Alisa Wilma, and Command Sergeant Major Shavonda Devereaux. They, along with a group of soldiers serving as the color guard, are assigned to Fort Johnson’s Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital. Parish President John Richmond presented plaques to Phillip Pitts and George Minturn, both of whom were instrumental in the building and operation of the Natchitoches Veterans’ Memorial Park.

The Memorial Day address was delivered by Loyd Lee Ponder, son of WWII Veteran Loyd A. Ponder.  After Mr. Ponder’s speech, Dee Fowler, Ron Brown, and Tommy Stewart read stories of valor about local WWII veterans. Trish Gilbert read the names of veterans commemorated this year with new bricks in the Veterans’ Memorial Park. The name of each of the area veterans who passed away over the past year was read by Janet Darfus and Amanda Miller after which Dr. John Dunn played Taps.

A moment of silence was observed after which Rev Frank Fuller delivered the closing prayer. In what has become a traditional ending for the Natchitoches Memorial Day ceremony, Ms. Sarah Puryear-Dunn led the crowd in in an absolutely superb rendition of the classic “God Bless America.”

The event is part and parcel of what Winston Churchill referred to as “the long continuity of our institutions.” It, and ceremonies like it across the country, bind us together as a nation. In the increasingly fractious country we find ourselves in, things like Memorial Day and its remembrances remind us of what is important.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal is donating the event photography. The veterans’ families are welcome to download any they wish.