Ascension Parish Veterans Day Parade to Roll Nov. 13 in Gonzales

Staff reports

The Second Annual Ascension Parish Veterans Day Parade is set to roll on Sunday, Nov. 13, organizers said.

The parade will be the culmination of several veterans-related activities planned for parish residents and veterans from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13.

“We want to show all of our veterans old and young that we are thankful for their service to this country, and to the guarantee that we remain a free country,” said Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez.

The Veterans Day Parade participants will line up on Irma Boulevard for pre-staging. At 2 p.m., the parade will proceed and turn west on East Worthy Road.  It will continue and then turn right/north onto LA 44/Burnside Ave. and continue till its finish just past the railroad tracks crossover. The parade will disperse into the parking lot of Galleries Gonzales next to the Auto Zone.

Area Boy Scouts will be leading the parade as they hand out 5,000 hand flags for parade watchers to wave, said Pat Bell, parade committee member. Bell said the flags were a combined donation made by state Rep. Mert Smiley, state Sen. Jody Amedee and state Rep. Eddie Lambert.

Parade committee member Cheryl Kinchen, said F-15 jet aircraft with the United States Air Force’s Air National Guard 159th Fighter Wing, commanded by Lt. Col. Shawn Coco, will also conduct a flyover during the beginning of the parade.

Kinchen said, following the parade, Brig. Gen. (USAF retired) Steve Ritchie will speak at the Lamar-Dixon Gymnasium at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, 9039 St Landry Rd., Gonzales at 5 p.m.

After completing 339 combat missions totaling over 800 flying hours, Ritchie returned from his second combat tour as one of the most highly decorated pilots in the Vietnam War, having received the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 25 Air Medals.

His combat achievements also brought him the 1972 "Mackay Trophy" for the most significant Air Force Mission of the Year, the Air Force Academy's 1972 “Colonel James Jabara Award for Airmanship", and the 1972 Armed Forces Award, presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for outstanding contributions to the national security of the United States. In 1973 he was selected as one of the "Outstanding Young Men of America', and in 1974 received the Eugene Zuchert Award from the Civil Air Patrol.

Ritchie is known as “the last flying ace.”

Kinchen said residents may also attend the Ascension Parish Veterans’ Park Committee’s Veterans Day Program on Friday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The park is located at 612 Irma Blvd. next to the Gonzales Library.

“The program will have music performed by the Combined High School Choir as well as the National Anthem sung by Jenny Heroman with EATEL Channel 4,” Kinchen said. “The guest speaker will be retired Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau with the Louisiana National Guard. We look forward to hearing from him because we all know of his dedicated service.”

Kinchen said program-goers will be treated to jambalaya, provided by the Jambalaya Festival Association, after the program.

On Saturday, the 2nd Annual Veterans Resource Fair will take place at the Lamar-Dixon Gymnasium from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Kinchen said the theme of this year’s fair is “Serving Those Who Served.”

“It’s during this event that we try to bring together as many organizations and resources for veterans as we can find,” Kinchen said. “We want to give veterans the opportunity to access these resources at one location.”

Kinchen said organizations participating include the Red Cross, The Ascension Counseling Center, the Veterans Administration, Quad Area Veterans and the Louisiana Relay Service.

Kinchen said the Louisiana Relay Service is a telecommunications relay service (TRS) that is a free, 24-hour service allowing people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or speech disabled to communicate via the telephone. Through the use of specialized equipment, relay users can communicate freely with hearing friends, family and businesses—or with other relay users.

“All of these events are free and open to the public,” Kinchen said. “Parish President Martinez has always been a supporter of the veterans and that’s why the Veterans Park was built, and why we celebrate with this parade. If anyone is interested in participating in any of the events or the parade, they may call 225-473-1508. And remember, ‘Proud to be American, Proud to be Ascension.’”