On Veterans Day, Iota and Estherwood are making sure that their local veterans will get the applause they deserve.
In Iota, The Iota First (IF) Club plans to make sure 11 surviving World War II heroes will be honored here on Veterans Day in a ceremony.
The civic group that works to promote and support activities within the small town, honors senior citizens annually and as they do so for Veterans Day by celebrating the heroes in the streets and even in the sky.
According to Chairman Johnnie Reed, the group wanted to honor its living WWII veterans in a special way.
“We had a historian from North Carolina that became quite interested in this project, researching the military careers of our living veterans,” Reed said. “After gathering information, the historian determined the medals each veteran should have received because of his service.”
Sponsors were secured for each veteran to given to the men a piece of history they earned and did not receive. And, thanks to these sponsors, the 11 veterans will finally be pinned with some receiving eight or nine medals.
Reed explained that due to the quick discharge mot WWII veterans received, most did not receive military and government issued service medals.
“We had miniature medals made for them, including white hats with the emblems for their branch of service,” she said. “So they will receive those items during the Veterans Day service.
While 11 veterans will be recognized, 13 was the original number of veterans to be honored, but in the two months the historian was compiling information, two of the veterans, Gilton Pousson and Phillip Doucet, passed away. They will be remembered at the ceremony, however.
But for the remaining 11–Ray Cart, Paul Doucet, Irma Darphin, Harvey Hebert, Joel Pousson, J.D. Mesh, Richard Patin, Jimmy Newman, J.D. Bertrand, Elridge Pousson, Shirley “Chuck” Oliver and J.D. Miller–all eyes will be on them.
The ceremony and celebration will kick off at 1 p.m. at the Iota High School gymnasium, located on Fifth Street. At the start of the event, the veterans will be pinned. From there, each will be driven north in a convertible along a parade route that will include police escort and the Iota High School marching band.
The parade will turn onto Frey Street, where everything will come to a standstill as approximately eight airplanes, all owned by local, will fly over the celebration. The parade will continue along Frey Street taking a left onto Highway 98, then conclude at the Iota Elementary cafeteria and auditorium, where speeches and special presentations will pay tribute to the veterans.
The celebration will also include a special presentation to the family of Cpl. Matthew Richard, a U.S. Marine and Iota resident who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2011.
“The whole town is pitching in and everything is coming together beautifully,” said Reed. “We just want to invite everyone to join us in celebrating these incredible men.”
In Estherwood, the Estherwood Cemetery Association will have its annual veterans’ salute in the Estherwood Cemetery.
“Every year it’s done at the cemetery and we will honor both the veterans buried in our cemetery as well as those still with us,” said Sandi Maples of the Estherwood Cemetery Association.
The Estherwood Cemetery has a long standing history with the military and its veterans as its entrance features a wall dedicated to the veterans with flags from each branch of service and a prisoner of war flag. It also features veterans from as far back as the Civil War (two according to Maples).
The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning at the cemetery and veterans will be recognized in the audience as each branch’s flag is raised and hymn is played. There will also be a bagpipe player and someone to play Taps. Veterans in the audience will also receive a remembrance pin. After the service, a breakfast will be held at the K.C. Hall.
If weather becomes a factor, the ceremony itself will take place inside the hall as well.