Surprised Wiley takes one (award) for the team

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, second from left, accepts the Bronze Minuteman Award on behalf of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office from U.S. Army Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gary Whipple, Maj. Kenneth Baillie, and Maj. Chuck Hudson, from left, in the Ascension Parish Sheriff's War Room in Gonzales.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, second from left, accepts the Bronze Minuteman Award on behalf of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office from U.S. Army Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gary Whipple, Maj. Kenneth Baillie, and Maj. Chuck Hudson, from left, in the Ascension Parish Sheriff's War Room in Gonzales.

Sheriff Jeff Wiley had no idea why he was called to his “War Room” last week for a secret meeting.

“We’re pretty sure we got him,” Capt. Lee Anderson said Nov. 15 as he and other law officials with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office joined forces with the Louisiana Army National Guard to present Wiley with the Guard’s Bronze Minuteman Award.

As Wiley entered the room, which is dedicated to area veterans and their service, Sheriff’s Office Col. Tony Bacala explained that the sheriff was called to the meeting “to talk about relationships with the Guard.”

Still unaware of what was really going on, Wiley was greeted by Louisiana Army National Guard Maj. Kenneth Baillie and Maj. Chuck Hudson, who lead units that recently returned from service overseas.

After a few minutes, Hudson revealed the real reason Wiley had been called to the meeting.

“We want to say thanks for everything you do for our guys,” Hudson said as he pulled out the large bronze sculpture of a Minuteman, the symbol of the Guard.

Wiley was receiving the award, Hudson said, for his part in feeding more than 800 guardsman and their families before the LSU vs. Idaho football game in September. The guardsmen were honored during halftime ceremonies in Tiger Stadium and got to attend the game thanks to donated tickets from the Tiger Athletic Foundation.

The soldiers had recently returned from combat operations overseas in support of Operation New Dawn Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan and conducted operations in support of Hurricane Isaac recovery efforts, he said.

Hudson said members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 415th Military Intelligence Battalion and 239th Military Police Company headquartered in Carville “just wanted to thank you for your support that great day and over the years.”

The Guard also presented the Bronze Minuteman Award, which is granted to civilians and civilian organizations in recognition and appreciation for their service to the state and citizen soldiers, to LSU for its efforts in hosting the September event.

“So, let me get this straight,” Wiley said. “I don’t lift a spoon ... and I get the picture with the award?”

Wiley said his officers and staff have worked on several projects to support soldiers serving overseas.

“It’s a privilege to get to honor those who serve us everyday as citizen soldiers,” Wiley said.

Wiley called the Guard “the fabric of the community” and committed to continuing to support the soldiers and their families.

“The food was great and the event was awesome,” said Maj. Gary Whipple, battalion commander with the 415 MI unit.

Wiley said he plans to keep the award in the War Room among the veteran’s flags, photographs and memorabilia displayed.

Cooking the jambalaya for the football game were Anderson, Bacala, Cody Melancon, Tony Tureau, Jeff LeGrange, Jason Mullins, Shane Cannon, Steven Decoteau, Denny Phillips, Brady Diez, Paul Robert, Bobby Webre and Joey Meyers.

“It was a team effort and I’m accepting this for the team,” Wiley said.