Hannah Richardson | Lifestyle Editor
It was a beautiful Memorial Day Monday, May 31 on the downtown riverbank for the Natchitoches Parish Veterans and Memorial Park’s 2021 Memorial Day Program. The program was a memorial to those who died in the defense of the country and those whom have died since their service. Master of Ceremonies Jeremy Miller gave welcome remarks to the crowd and Ron Brown led the opening prayer. The Natchitoches Central JROTC posted colors and Wayne Nelson led the Pledge of Allegiance.
After Sarah Puryear-Dunn sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams gave formal welcome remarks. He thanked the crowd for coming out to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and have given their life in service of the country. “Today, we stop to say ‘thank you’. We stop to ensure that they are forever remembered and honored,” said Williams. “[Their sacrifice] was not in vain. We stop in the midst of civil unrest and mass shootings to say ‘thank you for your service. Thank you for believing in our great nation. Your service will not be forgotten.’”
U.S Congressman Mike Johnson, who serves Louisiana’s Fourth District, gave Memorial Day remarks. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 10, 2016, by the largest margin of victory in his region in more than 50 years and is currently serving his third term in Congress. “Among the hundreds of millions of Americans, really only hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to ensure that this great experiment in liberty can survive and thrive,” said Johnson. “We ought to talk seriously with young people about the perils of losing our freedom and how and why it should be preserved. We ought to share the stories of those individuals who have given their last measure of devotion to hand it on for them. We ought to make this somber holiday intensely personal for all Americans, because it is and it must always be.”
Veterans shared with the crowd a tribute to Truman Maynard, who was a longtime park committee member and a career Army officer who graduated from Northwestern State College in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission in the United States Army. Truman joined the Kiwanis club and became active in the Walter Ledet Coffee Club. He was active in the Sons of the American Revolution as well as the director for several Natchitoches Christmas Festival parades. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, Maynard fought a battle with cancer that finally claimed his life July 3, 2020. His wife, Martha Maynard accepted a bouquet of flowers from committee members.
Five new bricks in the park were dedicated in honor of Cpl. Lawson Boyett, J. Milton Corley and A1C Wilton Corley, Sgt. E.J. Lapeyrouse Jr. and T. Sgt. Pattison F. Willis. Middle Lab Fifth Grader Darvy Allison sang “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by Dr. Samuel Stokes on acoustic guitar. Donna Masson read the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.
The program was closed with Leta Brown singing “God Bless America,” with the crowd singing along.