Iberville Veteran’s Memorial wins state AIA honor award

Deidre Cruse
AWARD-WINNING MEMORIAL...The Iberville Parish Veteran’s Memorial, which honors the parish’s war veterans, is itself garnering honors even before it’s opening on Tuesday, November 11. In its recent design competition, the Louisiana chapter of the American Association of Architects has presented the memorial’s architects, Grace & Hebert, with a prestigious honor award.

Grace & Hebert Architects, APAC, won an honor award for its design of the Iberville Parish Veterans Memorial in the Louisiana chapter of the  American Institute of Architects’ annual design competition. 

The new memorial, which will be dedicated in ceremonies on Veteran’s Day, November 11, was among 58 projects entered in the competition for the prestigious design award, and one of five named for an honor award.

The awards were given at the AIA Design Conference luncheon held in New Orleans last month.

The memorial was designed to be a fitting and moving monument honoring Iberville veterans without using the names of those who have served. Its composition also was required to reflect Iberville Parish and its people.

According to architect and Plaquemine native Jerry Hebert, this was accomplished through the use of a variety of materials and effects:

War is harsh and cold, yet our military has had the strength to keep us free in many long and bloody wars. Thus, the memorial’s hard concrete foundation and walls reflect both this stark reality and the strength of our military.

The four conflict markers of the memorial are reminders of the tremendous human costs of World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars. The markers are set within a water element, making them untouchable and unchangeable.  Holes in those markers line up perfectly, beckoning observers to look to the future to avoid the horrors of future wars.

A nearby wall, which is touchable and changeable, represents other and future wars. The water element used in the monument reflects the importance of Iberville’s many waterways to Iberville Parish and its residents.

The divider above the water element mimics the role of the great Mississippi River in dividing the east and west sides of the parish. The concept for the divider is the Plaquemine Lock, which played a tremendous role in the parish’s growth and economy for about three-quarters of a century as a critical inlet, via Bayou Plaquemine, from the river.

Another wall of the monument includes letters from service personnel to loved ones back home while they were thousands of miles away, often in very dangerous combat and service role. These letters reflect the trying difficulties, sadness and concern for loved ones that our veterans experienced while serving and defending our country.

Perhaps one of the most stunning aspects of the memorial is the use of translucent markers for the various branches of the military. The markers are underlit so that they slowly light up as dusk turns to darkness. This beautiful transformation represents the gift of freedom that our veterans have given American citizens - the great gift of life in the land of the free and home of the brave for generation after generation. Bronze sculptures of people reflecting at the memorial are presently being created, and will be added to the memorial next year. They will be a further representation of the great gift of freedom.

The inscription on the memorial, etched in bronze, reads simply, “In honor of those whose strength and courage we owe the freedom of this nation.”