Natchitoches residents remember loved ones on Memorial Day

leta Brown

Pictured at left is Alton Townsend Jr. and at right, Alton Lloyd Townsend.

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.”

Ron and Eddie

Pictured at left is Billy Harrington and at right, Major Elmer O. McBride.

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.”

Earn This

By Kevin Shannahan

kevinS-ONEThere is a scene in Steven Spielberg’s superb “Saving Private Ryan” in which Tom Hank’s character, Captain John Miller, lay dying. The advancing German attack had just been stopped and the tide of the battle had turned. He pulls Private Ryan to him and utters a simple phrase “James…earn this…” It is one of the most powerful scenes in any movie I’ve ever seen. After Captain Miller dies, the scene shifts to the modern day as James Ryan, now an old man surrounded by his family, stands before Captain Miller’s grave wracked by doubts that he earned his life after the battle.

I was 37 when the movie came out in 1998. As I get older I appreciate “Saving Private Ryan”, more and more. When my grandchildren were born, I really understood the scene’s power. What made the movie great were not the battle scenes, not even Captain Miller’s dying injunction to “earn this” but the scene at the cemetery. In a few short minutes, the movie distilled the meaning of Memorial Day, one of our most misunderstood holidays.

For much of the country, Memorial Day is a 3 day weekend, a start to the summer, an occasion for sales and BBQ’s. Some television networks play nothing but war movies all day, something I’ve never understood. The day alternates between beach, BBQ, sales and mawkish “look at me” displays of cheap and easy patriotism from the popular culture. A popular song with the lyric “We’ll put a boot in your ass” is more fitting for a barroom brawl. The men and women doing the hard and dangerous work of keeping this nation’s enemies at bay deserve better. They deserve dignity, not posturing.

For a much smaller part of our nation, Memorial Day has a more personal meaning. They are the widows and parents whose hopes for the future were shattered by a knock on the door from an officer in a dress uniform. They are the children whose memory of a parent dims with time or is nothing but a photograph. They are a family in Alexandria, Louisiana whose portrait of a son in a Marine uniform sat on a side altar in the cathedral with a rosary draped over it.

In a way, it is a good thing that Memorial Day is not so well understood. I would not wish America a return to the casualty rates of the Civil War or World War II in which much of the nation had a very personal stake in the war.

Captain John Miller and Private James Ryan may be fictional characters in a movie, but they personify the values we should remember and honor on Memorial Day. We “earn this” every day. Every teacher who does his or her best to bring up the next generation, every parent who gets up to go to work to support a family and set an example for their children, everyone who does what he or she can to make the world around them just a little bit better honors the sacrifice of the men and women who made it possible. From the men at Lexington and Concord, to Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg, to Normandy Beach and the Korengal Valley, the men and women who died laid a sacred obligation on us. “Earn This.”

I do not begrudge my fellow citizens a day at the beach or grilling. I plan on enjoying some time off work myself. Hold your children a little tighter. Be a good wife or husband. Work hard and fulfill your obligations to yourself and others. Be a serious person, worthy of those who went before you.

Memorial Day

By Junior Johnson

Junior_Johnson's_DadAIronically in a time when Confederate monuments are being removed around the Country, people are preparing to celebrate Memorial Day. A day that we honor fallen veterans of ALL WARS.

In 1868 the very first observed Memorial Day took place. This was done by a proclamation by General John Logan. He served in the Mexican-American War and later with the Union Army.

This Memorial Day was to celebrate the sacrifices of Civil War Veterans, both Union and Confederate. More than 20,000 graves from both sides were decorated in their honor.

Over the years this special day honored all who died in American Wars, as well as veterans who served and are currently serving in the military.

I pray that there will come a time when we will not have to bury fallen heroes who gave their lives to protect us.

Many years ago I had the honor of visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Looking out over that sea of white crosses was a very somber and humbling experience for me.

Our Country has had some of its finest men and women shed their blood and lose their lives on foreign soil. They made the ultimate sacrifice to make our world a safer place to live in.

My Father, Harvis Johnson Sr., proudly served under General Patton during World War II. He was a young and innocent boy when he finished his training in Biloxi, Mississippi and traveled overseas to serve his Country.

Although his life was spared in that terrible War, he carried its memories the rest of his life.

I never served in the military, but had several of my high school classmates who did. Pictured at the top of this column is my dear friend Billy Spillman relaxing between combat missions while serving in Vietnam. Pictured at the bottom is my father Harvis Johnson Sr.

I make it a point to shake the hand of a person in uniform when I can and I encourage you to do the same. It means a lot to them to know that we care.

Give thanks to all who died and served our Country on their special day. We would not be able to enjoy the freedom that we have today where it not for their unselfish sacrifices.

Junior_Johnson_Billy_SpillmanA

More Than Just Numbers and Names

By Willie M. Calhoun (MSG, USAR, ret.)

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This Memorial day (May 29), we will commemorate and honor America’s wartime dead of all wars. According to a PBS NewsHour article, their number is estimated to exceed 1 million. While this number may appear rather large when used alone, it’s not as large when compared to the U.S. population of 326 million.

If compared to America’s population, the number of 1 million would be comparable to the population of Rhode Island. In other words, over a million of our fellow citizens have died wartime deaths so that we can enjoy a large range of freedoms and rights that include individual rights, community rights, state’s rights, and of course U. S. citizenship rights. So, when we hear the phrase “so few gave all for so many,” we should remind ourselves of these numbers.

Still, there are smaller numbers of wartime deaths, but given the amount of time they occurred in; they deserve just as much attention. The above PBS article also indicated that over 7,000 American lives were lost within 72 hours (3 days) during the Civil War. Within 47 days, over 26,000 Americans lost their lives a single campaign during World War 1. Even I, as a Viet Nam veteran, was surprised to find that during that war, over 90,000 American lives were lost within roughly 20 years. Again, another phrase “freedom isn’t free” is often used while we commemorate and honor these wartime dead on Memorial Day.

We should also remember that Memorial Day is about more than the number of American wartime deaths. Alongside these numbers are individuals whose youthful deaths affected families all across America. After America’s first war, families were known to decorate the gravesite of the fallen. The laying of flowers or wreaths on grave sites continue along with the mournful sound of the bugle known as “taps”. The grief of family loss is captured in a song by the Statler brothers called “More Than a Name on a Wall” and by a photo taken at section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery showing a young lady lying on the grave of her fiancé.

Finally, on Memorial Day, we’ll make our annual but futile attempt to pay the immense debt we owe these dead American servicepersons. However, in our quest to pay that debt, we’re confronted with the issue of mortality and are forced to concede that, as stated in the Gettysburg address, “it is far above our poor power” to pay a debt to the dead. Humbled and frustrated, as a grateful nation, we turn to God and ask that he settle our debt with these honored dead American servicepersons.

 

Memorial Day Service will be held Monday

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The Natchitoches Parish Veterans and Memorial Park Committee will host a Memorial Day Service Monday, May 29 at 3 pm to honor Natchitoches Veterans at the Park next to the Old Courthouse Museum. A program highlight of this traditional Memorial Service will include a roll call of these veterans and the playing of Taps. All area veterans, friends, and families are encouraged to attend this celebration of veteran’s service to the country.

Master of Ceremonies – Truman Maynard
Opening Prayer – Pastor Ralph Johnson
Posting of the Colors – Lakeview High School Air Force Jr. ROTC
Pledge of Allegiance – James Gay
Singing of the National Anthem – Sara Puryear-Dunn
Memorial Day Remarks – Mayor Lee Posey
Roll Call of Parish Veterans who died during the last year – Becky Ham & Rev. Frank Fuller
Moment of Silence & Taps – Dr. John Dunn
Update on Park Projects and Pavers – Donna Masson
Closing Comments from the VFW/American Legion and Axillaries
Closing Prayer – Elder Ron Brown
Following the ceremony, an open house will be held at the nearby VFW/American Post to honor area Veterans, friends, and families. Refreshments will be served.

Many thanks to the NSU Army ROTC, Lakeview Air Force Jr. ROTC, Natchitoches Central Jr. ROTC, VFW/American Legion and Auxiliaries, NPVAMP Committee Members, City and Parish Governments of Natchitoches, the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Natchitoches City Police, Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce, the Natchitoches Parish Journal, KNTS TV, Elite Broadcasting Company,  the Natchitoches Times, Park Sponsors and the Veterans community for making this program possible.

Inclement Weather Plan – Natchitoches Arts Center

Notice of Death – May 27, 2017

Notice of Death 2017

Walter Wade LeBrun
November 09, 1948 – May 25, 2017
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 2 pm at Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home in Natchitoches
Interment: Nativity Catholic Cemetery in Campti

Marilyn Florence Peterson Taylor
May 17, 1937 – May 25, 2017
Arrangements TBA

Sis. Linda Gail King
February 19, 1951 – May 23, 2017
Service: Saturday, June 3 at 11 am at the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, Hwy. 1226 in Clarence
Interment: Winnfield City Cemetery in Winnfield
George Washington
March 28, 1944 – May 19, 2017
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 1 pm at the Agape Love Center Church, 1515 Texas Street in Natchitoches
Interment: St. Savior Baptist Church Cemetery (Cane River)
Visitation: Saturday, May 27 from 8 am – noon at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home, 318 North Street in Natchitoches

Terrence Gates
May 16, 2017
Visitation: Saturday, May 27 from 9-11 am at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home Chapel
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 11 am at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home Chapel
Interment: Fern Park Cemetery on Texas Street.

Clarence Forest
May 13, 2017
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 12 pm at Gaines Chapel AME, 842 Anita Street in Natchitoches
Interment: Breda Town Cemetery

Josephine Wyatt McCarty
October 13, 1932 – May 23, 2017
Visitation: Saturday, May 27 from 11 am – 1 pm at the funeral home
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 1 pm in the chapel of John Kramer & Son Funeral Home
Interment: Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Melinda Louise Millican Zolzer
October 01, 1950 – May 21, 2017
Visitation: Saturday, May 27 from 12-2 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 533 Second Street in Natchitoches
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 2 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church of Natchitoches
Interment: Trinity Episcopal columbarium

Joseph Patterson
May 19, 2017
Service: Saturday, May 27 at 10 am at Boone Funeral Home, 3903 Meriweather Road in Shreveport (next to Queensbourgh Lodge)
Interment: Forest Park West Cemetery
Knight Templar Honor Guard and Masonic Rites

Thomas “T-Boy” Green
May 20, 2017
Arrangements TBA
Frankie D. West
July 18, 1950 – May 23, 2017
Arrangements TBA

Eula Moody
May 24, 2017
Arrangements TBA

Dorothy Miller
April 16, 1936 – May 22, 2017
Arrangements TBA

William Richard Green
April 05, 1955 – May 23, 2017
Arrangements TBA