KEITHVILLE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery hosted a virtual Memorial Day observation via Facebook live. Soldiers were standing at attention and at a distance while a few families visiting their late loved ones could view from afar.
Normally they have between 200 to 400 people in attendance to attend their annual Memorial Day program, but because of the pandemic they went virtual to minimize COVID-19 exposure.
“Remembering my grandfather, a World War II POW and a purple heart recipient, I think of his service driving me to serve and how much I understood more about him after going through war,” said Director of the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery, Don Howard in his speech online.
He says COVID-19 has impacted daily normal operations as well. A regular ceremony for a fallen veteran would consist of a 30-minute committal service followed by laying to rest the veteran in the appropriate location.
“Now we only do what are called direct burials. So as soon as the funeral home staff arrives with the remains, my staff will meet them up at our administrative building. They will immediately place those remains in the appropriate place,” said Howard, “Following that, family members are welcome and encouraged to visit.”
Howard says even though COVID-19 is going on right now, the gates for the cemetery will not close.
Which, for 9-year old Cerena Olivier, it means that she could come visit the grave of her great great grandfather, Ernest Richard Fergeson. While waving a handful of flags, she came to visit him with her mother and grandmother.
Fergeson was in the Air Force and his headstone reads “Always our beloved cowboy.”
“I was putting other flags on the other veterans too,” said Olivier, “Because today is Memorial Day and Memorial Day is like where we honor those men and women who have died serving for us for our freedom.”
Olivier’s mother, Alicia Olivier says her grandfather was a Texas cowboy who loved the tell the story about how when he was stationed back in the day at Barksdale Airforce Base he met Elvis Presley.
He’d say he saw the famous singer all alone in a bar before he was well known and invited him over to his table. They planned on going to a music show happening across the street after talking for a bit. When Fergeson said he needed to buy tickets, the famous singer revealed he didn’t need any, because he was the one performing.
These are the memories that three generations are cherishing and can pass down according to Caddo Parish Commissioner, Kenneth Epperson Sr. who was also in attendance. He was visiting the graves of his father and stepfather who both served.
“The sacrifices we’ve made since 1775 with the continental army up to our soldiers that are fighting and died in Afghanistan today,” he said, “Owed all because of our freedom and democracy due to their sacrifices.”
#VirtualMemorialDay and #CandlesOfHonor is a nationwide effort to remember fallen veterans by National Commander, James W. “Bill” Oxford.
He’s calling on the American Legion Family to encourage communities far and wide to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes at dusk by lighting candles of honor and placing them on front porches.
“Such a display will remind everyone that our resolve to honor those who served before us will continue even as social-distancing measures limit our ability to perform traditional Memorial Day remembrances,” he writes in an open letter.
- A red candle to remember the blood shed in battle for the protection of our freedoms.
- A white candle to keep our POWs/MIAs ever in our thoughts and prayers as we await their return home
- A blue candle to salute the memories of those who made it home but are no longer with us.