‘Truly blessed by being a veteran’

Ceremonies downtown, at LSU

“We honor their bravery. We honor  their commitment. We honor their service  to God and to country. That’s what’s so special about these people.” Mayor-President Kip Holden

On the 237th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps and one day before Veterans Day, some Baton Rouge residents spent Saturday morning celebrating the nation’s armed forces veterans.

Amid tailgaters preparing for Saturday night’s football game, LSU hosted its annual LSU Salutes assembly.

About two hours later, a group of veterans and patriots gathered in the Old State Capitol for the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum’s Veterans Day ceremonies.

At LSU, family and friends gathered with veterans near LSU’s War Memorial as the university’s Corps of Cadets lined up in formation on the Parade Ground.

As members of LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland began playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a fighter jet roared overhead.

Interim LSU President William Jenkins told the crowd that the LSU Salutes ceremony is a “wonderful tradition” that honors LSU’s “Ole War Skule” history.

“There’s little that gives me greater pride than attending (this event) with you today,” Jenkins said.

Twelve LSU alumni who have distinguished themselves through their military careers were inducted into LSU’s Military Hall of Honor.

Those veterans’ careers range as far back as 1912, when posthumous honoree Joseph Alsop Redding was commissioned into the U.S. Army.

Kirby E. Allen, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and one of the men inducted, said he was humbled to be honored by his alma mater.

“I think the Ole War Skule keeps itself as a living organization,” Allen said.

After the inductions, a flower wreath was placed at the War Memorial in honor of all veterans.

Booming cannon blasts filled the air as cadets ripped off a 21-gun salute, sending clouds of smoke into the air that briefly obscured the sun.

LSU’s Corps of Cadets then conducted a “pass and review.” The cadets marched in formation to the beat of the LSU Band.

At the conclusion, the LSU Band ended with the four-note hymn known as “Hold That Tiger.”

Donald C. Bulloch, another retired U.S. Air Force colonel honored by LSU, said his pride in his school and his service still stay with him even after earning his degrees more than 40 years ago.

“It’s in your blood,” Bulloch said.

At the Old State Capitol, a crowd of about 100 people heard veterans and public figures speak in the House Chambers about the importance of service in the military.

Woven between the speakers were rousing performances from the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus of songs such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “This Land is Your Land.”

Master of ceremonies Scott Rogers, host of the local “Around Town” TV show, said veterans provide Americans with freedoms that can be taken for granted.

“It’s a veteran who salutes the flag, risks it all for the flag and who is buried beneath the flag,” Rogers said.

Joe Nathan Jenkins, an Army veteran who received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War, told the crowd he likely would not have joined the military had he not been drafted.

But Jenkins said that once he was in uniform, it became one of the best things that ever happened to him.

“I have been truly blessed by being a veteran,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins also asked the crowd to show appreciation to any veterans they see, even when it is not Veterans Day.

“We have this day set aside for that purpose,” Jenkins said. “But I will say to you, whenever you see a veteran in a uniform, find a way to say thank you.”

Mayor-President Kip Holden said Veterans Day is a celebration that helps others remember “special people” who were willing to put their lives on the line for the country’s sake.

“We honor their bravery. We honor their commitment. We honor their service to God and to country,” Holden said. “That’s what’s so special about these people.”

Jim Le Blanc, a Navy veteran and commander of American Legion Post 58, wore a Navy-themed tie and an American flag pin with a red ribbon to go along with his American Legion headgear.

Le Blanc said he has attended the ceremony for several years now.

“It’s really great,” Le Blanc said. “I think it’s a shame more people don’t honor our veterans.”