New holiday display honors fallen veterans

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Sec. Joey Strickland (Col. U.S. Army, retired) last week announced the U.S. Armed Forces Memorial Grove of Lights, a  new holiday display honoring those fallen Louisiana soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty protecting our state and nation as well as their Gold Star Families.

The light display is available to see through Jan. 7, 2022, at 599 State Capitol Dr. in Baton Rouge, on the side of the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Park facing the Governor’s Mansion.

Gov. John Bel Edwards

“These men and women of all military branches who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom that we all enjoy, have paid a tremendous price in doing so, and they deserve to be honored and remembered,” Edwards said. “We know that the holiday season can be a very difficult time for their families who have loved and supported them, which is why we wanted to find a special way to recognize their courage and service. As a veteran, I know that when a loved one makes the commitment to serve, their families serve right along with them. We owe them our gratitude and will keep them in our prayers." 

“As a combat veteran and long-time secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as a father of combat soldiers, I understand the sacrifice that families make daily when their loved ones are in harm’s way,” Strickland said. “I also understand how difficult it is, especially during the holidays, to carry the burden and memories of those who have been lost on the battlefield in service to our nation. LDVA pays tribute to and honors those Gold Star Families, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.”

The tradition of the gold star began during World War I. During the war, a blue star was used on service flags and hung in homes and businesses to represent each living active-duty member. As service members were killed in combat, the gold star was superimposed on the blue star to honor the person for their ultimate sacrifice to the country. Eventually, the mothers of those fallen service members became known as Gold Star Mothers, and their families Gold Star Families.

The Louisiana Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Park honors Gold Star Families, preserves the memory of the fallen and stands as a stark reminder that freedom is not free. The memorial is the first of its kind in the nation to be placed on State Capitol grounds. 

The U.S. Armed Forces Memorial Grove of Lights is among the latest addition to the thousands of beautiful Christmas lights, ornaments and array of Louisiana themed displays on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol and the Capitol Lakes for families to enjoy. Also new this year are displays that represent various regions across the state:

  • The Louisiana Old State Capitol (Baton Rouge)
  • St. Louis Cathedral (New Orleans)
  • Louisiana Hayride (North Louisiana and the radio show that helped launch the careers of famed musicians such Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley

Southeast Louisiana is represented by the Cajun night before Christmas scene, coastal Louisiana by the Brown Pelicans and Central Louisiana is represented by the Brown Bears. Each year, new displays are added to represent the different parts and cultures of our state. This is the fifth year of the display, which began in 2017.