Thanks vets! Iberville dedicates memorial

Deidre Cruse
EVENING VIEW...Local photographer Paul Bouy snapped these shots, top and bottom, of the new Iberville Parish veterans’ memorial with evening lighting emphasizing the beauty of the monuments. The memorial was dedicated Tuesday and the POST SOUTH will have photo coverage the special parade and ceremonies in next week’s issue, due to press time deadline requirements.

“Today we say thank you to our vets,” Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said as he directed the lighting of a $1 million memorial dedicated to the past and present service men and women who have defended the country.

Ourso told a crowd of some 700 that the monument represented not only the “heartfelt gratitude” the parish offers those who have served, but also “the hope that in the future, our sons and daughters will not have to make the sacrifices that you have made for us.”

The lighting of the monument, which already has won the highest award from the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, showed off the use – the largest use of it in a U.S. construction -- of translucent concrete. Its transformation in the light is like the transformation in wartime, said architect Jerry Hebert.

(The POST/SOUTH will carry a full page of pictures of the event in next week’s issue.)

Ourso said the memorial had long been a dream of his, but both he and Hebert credited local veterans with helping to plan a distinct monument representing Iberville Parish.

“It is truly their monument. Architects are mere conduits,” Hebert told the crowd. He credited Sean Johnson as the lead designer.

Many Iberville veterans, some traveling in from other states, joined the crowd for the ceremony, which opened with a flyover of two F-15 fighter jets. One piloted by local son Col. Oscar Evans, the former Navy aviator son of John and Diane Evans of White Castle, said Air Force Capt. Tom McCormick, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office representative who emceed the event.

Ourso introduced 95-year-old veteran Pierre A. Gaudet of Bayou Pigeon and later presented a special award to John “Johnny Boy” Wilbert Jr. for 70 years of service to the country as a bugler playing taps at funerals and other events. The award praised Wilbert for his “compassionate spirit that has brought honor to Iberville Parish.”

Walter Landry, commander of American Legion Post #212 of White Castle, represented the veterans on the podium.

“We thank everybody who made this possible,” Landry said. “It’s great to be remembered.”

Ourso also recognized The Dow Chemical Company, which got the finances of the project off to a sound start with a $100,000 contribution as part of its celebration of its 50th year in Iberville Parish.

Dow Site Manager Sharon Cole’s voice broke as she told the crowd of her own 94-year-old father, a World War II veteran who is very ill.

“Until last Tuesday, he had never failed to exercise his right to vote,” she said.

District Judge Alvin Batiste Jr., who served as a Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer during the cold war and was keynote speaker for the event, said he reminds jurors that it is part of their duty as citizens.

“Jury service is not much of a sacrifice by comparison” to the sacrifice of life and limb by those who have defended the country, Batiste said.

“Let the memorial be a reminder of the sacrifices the veterans, especially those from Iberville, made for the country,” he said.

U. S. Rep. Rodney Alexander said he was delighted to see so many young people in the crowd.

“We need more gatherings like this to make sure the men and women who made those sacrifices are remembered,” Alexander said.

“This country was founded by the bold, but it will not be defended by the timid,” said Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.