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BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor and Contributing Writer

Featured Photograph: Pat Mason-Guillory embraces Joseph Richard of Church Point who is one of the last surviving veterans of Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy veteran is also the last surviving veteran of Pearl Harbor from Louisiana. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Bells rang ominously Monday for St. Landry soldiers from more than a century of combat, while symbolic rifle salutes were followed by the lonesome notes of a lone bugle that played taps in somber fashion across the vast expanse of the Veterans Memorial complex.

Separate indoor and outdoor ceremonies at the Yambilee building and the Memorial south of Opelousas paid their annual Memorial Day tributes for parish military personnel killed or missing in combat since World War I.

Stanzas from the legendary Flanders Field poem in which imaginary speakers, recently killed, pass the torch to the living combatants, were read by Pat Mason-Guillory, who coordinated both commemorative events.

Flags that were lowered ceremoniously in military tribute, were raised back to appropriate heights at the conclusion of the Memorial ceremony.

Mason-Guillory, the Veterans Memorial project director, also delivered a brief address before she and other dignitaries left the Yambilee grounds in an escorted motorcade for the Memorial where members of an already assembled St. Landry Veterans Funeral Honor Guard coordinated the outdoor event.

St. Landry gold star families who lost sons during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were presented with gifts by members of the Veterans Memorial committee.

Honorary guest at the Memorial event was Joseph Richard, the only documented survivor of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Richard, who left his family farm near Sunset at 17 and joined the U,S. Navy,  approached rock-star famous status as he sat during the Memorial ceremony dressed in a bow tie and white petty officer’s uniform smiling for numerous photos taken with cellphones.

During the Pearl Harbor attack, Richard, classified as a Navy welder at the start of World War II, helped rescue sailors trapped underwater aboard the sinking USS Oklahoma and Arizona.

The featured speaker during the Yambilee ceremony was Don Reber, state senior vice commander of the Louisiana Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Reber, who served in Vietnam during the 1960’s, noted that Veterans Day is an occasion in which Americans set aside their beliefs about politics and war, choosing instead to remember those who lost the chance to gather together on Monday.

“We should educate others about the true meaning of Memorial Day and thank those we honor here. It is for them that we are able to fulfill our future,” Reber added.

Each Memorial Day Reber said, should remind everyone about the cost of freedom and what he described as “lives that were cut short enabling all of us to live on.”

Mason-Guillory reminded the crowd that when soldiers leave home for the military there is never a guarantee that they will return alive.

“The soldiers who leave their homes are aware of what might happen so we can live in the free world,” said Mason-Guillory.

A floral arrangement is given to the gold star family of Webster Reed of Krotz Springs. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)