Your mail: Many helped cemetery
After years of planning, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs held a grand-opening ceremony for the Central Louisiana Veteran's Cemetery here in Leesville, near Fort Polk. Lest we forget, I believe it was about 20 years ago when a local group of determined gentlemen decided we needed this cemetery in our area, considering the large number of veterans and their families residing here. This team consisted of T.L. 'Sonny' Berry Jr., Jim Shapkoff Jr., Sen. John Smith, Raymond Palmer, Jim Myrick, Deloy Ross, Creighton Owen, Charlie Goad, Jae Cooley, Richard Hunt and Lee Stewart. Bill Pardue and Julian Ray Stephens flew the group -- at their own expense -- to meet with Congressman Sonny Montgomery. Hence, the seed was planted for this cemetery. Sadly, several of the gentlemen did not live to see the eventual outcome of their endeavor long ago, and of course, it has taken commitment and much hard work by many others to eventually bring the idea to fruition. In mid-2010, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the Veterans Administration had awarded a grant of more than $6 million to establish the Louisiana State Veterans Cemetery here. Gov. Bobby Jindal and other dignitaries attended a ground-breaking ceremony Nov. 8, 2010. Pat Williams Construction Co. was awarded the contract, and it began work immediately to finish as soon as possible! A local church (Castor Baptist) offered to keep a veteran's body in an above-ground vault at its cemetery until this one was completed, if a family so desired. I don't know if Harless Smart at Smart & Son Funeral Home had any requests, but this unique idea is yet another way to help. This initial construction project consists of 595 standard burial plots and numerous concrete crypts and grave sites for cremated remains. For further information, call any area VA office. It is with great pride that our area can now offer these services (as well as the recently opened outpatient clinic) to our veterans, and deservedly so. They can never be fully repaid for all their sacrifices, in my opinion. Many thanks to all who made this dream a reality. Leesville
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#1 Feb 25, 2012
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