Veterans honored during ceremony

Aaron E. Looney
Capt. Dennis Beavers, who advises the St. Amant Navy JROTC program, speaks to those in attendance during Tuesday’s Veterans Day program at Veterans Memorial Park in Gonzales. Beavers discussed the need for young people to consider enlisting in the military and warned against “walking away” from the war in Iraq.

Ascension Parish residents gathered at Veterans Memorial Park Tuesday for a special Veterans Day ceremony to thank members of the military who served and are currently serving.

The event, hosted by the parish’s Veterans Committee, also featured two guest speakers who discussed he need for an amendment calling for a balanced national budget and for military presence in Iraq to not be lifted immediately.

Louis J. Campomenosi, a Tulane political science professor and former principal at Ascension Catholic High School in Donaldsonville, said that adding a balanced budget amendment to the  Constitution through adoption by three-fourths of the states, is needed to help America fight terrorism. He said the current economic crisis and budget deficits make it difficult to fund military actions.

Campomenosi, who is also the executive director of the Louisiana Foundation for the Study of the Vietnam War, said that the current war on terrorism is “more sinister than the Cold War.

“During the Cold war, (former Soviet Union leader Nikita) Kruschev was rational,” Campomenosi said. “The people that want to kill you today are not.”

Campomenosi urged veterans to join forces through veterans’ organizations around the country and demand that legislators call a constitutional convention to create a balanced budget amendment.

“States do it (have balanced budget legislation), so why doesn’t the federal government do it?” Campomenosi asked.

Capt. Dennis Beaver, advisor to the St. Amant Navy JROTC program, said that while some say numbers of new military recruits are dwindling, he sees a continued number of young people enlisting. He also urged veterans to share their experiences with younger people and help guide them in the right direction.

“We have future veterans out there that continue at a young age to decide that they will continue the defense of our country and our way of life,” said Beaver, a 38-year veteran who served as a military pilot during the Vietnam War. “It was the impact of my family that led me to enlist.”

Beaver said that when members of the military signed their contracts, they vowed to ensure that elections can still take place in our country, despite their outcomes. He also said that America “cannot afford another tie” when it comes to the war in Iraq.

“We shouldn’t walk away from Iraq,” Beaver said.

Beaver said that while serving in Vietnam, he flew a plane at 15,000 feet over Saigon and watched as South Vietnamese citizens fled the country in boas. He was not allowed to provide cover.

“The rules of engagement said we were only to watch,” Beavefr said. “That’s unacceptable. We should not watch again. Our military deserves a win. If we send them to battle, they deserve for us to help them win. That’s the only way we should withdraw or redeploy.”

Beaver urged veterans to make their voices heard in national government concerning the war in Iraq.

“Let them (legislators) know how you feel about the situation,” Beaver said.

During the ceremony, Parish Council Chairman Pat Bell and Councilmen Benny Johnson and George Valentine presented Veterans Board Chairman Jack Watson with two U.S. flags that formerly flew over The Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Students from Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools also sang patriotic hymns during the gathering.

The event also included a Table of Rememberance ceremony to honor prisoners of war or those missing in action, the playing of “Taps” and a firing of the volleys by members of the U.S. Army National Guard 769th Engineering Batallion.

R.G. York, a U.S. Air Force Veteran and member of the American Legion Post 81 in Gonzales, spreads salt on a plate during the Table of Remembrance observation Tuesday, which symbolizes members of the military either missing in action or who are prisoners of war.