There is a landmark that greets visitors of St. Gertrude the Great Catholic Church in Des Allemands just outside of its front door, one that immortalizes the many late veterans who sacrificed to serve their country.
That landmark is a veterans memorial, taking the form of a hexagon structure surrounded by bricks, three concrete benches where visitors can sit and a ring of flower beds planted and maintained by local residents. The memorial stands around six feet tall with black granite plaques etched with the names of the fallen, and a wooden eagle is perched atop the structure. In front are two flagpoles, one carrying the flag of the United States and the other a prisoner of war/missing in action flag.
The names of any West Bank veteran are added as they become known.
Just as important for the St. Gertrude community, however, has been the annual veteran memorial service where area residents come together to recognize and honor those who passed in the previous calendar year – it’s also been a practice that’s been relegated to the sidelines over the past two years due to COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida.
And a full church worth of residents were in attendance recently, eager to bring the event back for the first time since 2019. Thirty-one names were called out and honored at the service, which recognized all known veterans who have passed over the three years it was not held.
The church attendees sang America the Beautiful in unison before an altar adorned with flowers and the three plaques of names to be newly added to the memorial structure outside. Next to the altar was a table set with empty chairs and a hat in place by each seat; this was to memorialize soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action.
Members of the Hahnville High School ROTC were on hand to escort family members and friends of the veterans to the altar to leave a flower as the names of each veteran was read aloud and given proper honor.
“We must remember our deceased veterans and we must recognize our living veterans … we must recruit, and we must encourage our young to keep the fire burning,” said Father Ray Hymel. “We express gratitude for their sacrifice and their service – we must be forever grateful to our veterans who set us on our path as a country.”
The veterans honored were:
Kerry “Michael” Candies, U.S. Army; Otto B. Candies Jr., U.S. Army; Paul B. Candies Sr., U.S. Coast Guard; George G. Champagne, U.S. Army; Francis X. Champagne Sr., U.S. Army; Rodney “Cap” Cortez, U.S. Army; Jerry J. Cortez Sr., U.S. Navy; Luther A. Dempster, U.S. Air Force; Robert “Bob” Dupont Sr., U.S. Navy; Huey R. “Frenchy” Falgoust, U.S. Marine Corps; Timothy M. “Can Man” Falgoust, U.S. Navy; Lawrence J. Folse Jr., U.S. Navy; George T. Forrest Jr., U.S. Army; Milton Hill, U.S. Marine Corps; Pelton Hill, U.S. Air Force; Lynn P. “Bozo” Hogan, U.S. Army; Wilton J. Hue Sr., U.S. Navy; Jules J. Hymel, U.S. Army Air Forces; Marc A. Hymel, U.S. Army Air Forces; Terry J. Lancaster, U.S. Army; Gerald B. Lorio, U.S. Army; Willie D. Matherne, U.S. Army; Jack S. McCully, U.S. Army; Beach McDaniel Jr., U.S. Navy; Thomas J. Pitre III, U.S. Army; Alexandre Romero II, U.S. Army; Raymond F. Roussell, U.S. Army; Curtis L. Savoie, U.S. Navy; Louis E. Somme II, U.S. Air Force; William “Bill” Spahr Jr., U.S. Army and Charles “Buck” Whittington, U.S. Army.