SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson is known for supporting veterans’ issues. He uses his voice in local government to advocate for veterans and the betterment of their benefits.

He recently helped to secure an expansion for the Northwest Louisiana Veteran’s Cemetery in Keithville. He shares his insight into military service and the realities of coming home for our special, “Veteran’s Voices.”

“Veterans Day is not about selling mattresses, selling cars, about barbecuing or going out boating. It’s about honoring the sacrifices that were made on behalf of this nation by men and women. 90% of the time that volunteered to go in and the others were drafted,” said Kenneth Epperson Senior, Caddo Parish Commissioner District 12 and Chairman of the Veterans Celebration Committee.

Commissioner Epperson said Americans should not take it for granted that since 1973, the entire country’s military is made up of volunteers. Volunteers who serve, fight, live and die. Sometimes that fighting and dying is right here on the home front.

“Do you know there’s veterans still battling for their benefits from Agent Orange from Vietnam?” Epperson said.

He spoke about how service members have been exposed to toxic chemicals throughout different generations, leaving them with lingering health effects.

“In the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein set all those oil fields on fire, those soldiers had to go fight through that and breathe in of that all that, and they are suffering now. In Afghanistan, they have what’s called burn pits where they burned unused arsenal, jet fuel, and oils. Soldiers had to breathe in all of that stuff too. Now they are suffering health issues and they face problems getting their benefits,” Epperson said.

“So just a hollow “thank you for your service,” is not what you should say. You need to ask a veteran, how are you mentally? Are you being fully serviced at your VA medical center? Do you think it’s adequately staffed? Do you think it’s adequately funded? Do you think you are being treated fairly in your benefits?”

He encourages people to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to see the reality soldiers face on the battlefronts.

“They are guys running around with no legs up to their torso. No arms. Blinded. Half of their skulls gone. Some of them got attacked and severely burned. That’s what people should see,” he said.

Epperson served during the Vietnam era, stationed in Germany from 1965 to 1968. He has since dedicated his life to being a voice for fellow veterans, advocating for the establishment of the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery where thousands of service members from across the generations, wars, and peacetime are laid to rest.

“I’m so glad we have a beautiful facility for them to be interred in once their time has expired upon this Earth. I love doing whatever I can to make sure our veterans and military are recognized. Our cemetery is just as beautiful as Arlington National Cemetery.”

He also recently help to secure a grant to expand the cemetery for 20,000 burials, allowing more veterans and their spouses to be buried there with full military honors, like Epperson’s father, who served in World War II. He had his father’s remains exhumed and reburied in Northwest Louisiana, where his family is originally from.

“It’s about truly honoring the sacrifices on behalf of this nation voluntarily. Don’t take them for granted.”