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Veterans deserve proper recognition

Far too many of our veterans are being buried with no military honors, whatsoever, at our National Cemetery and all of the surrounding cemeteries.

The sad truth of the matter is that if you are not killed in action or were not a senior officer in the military, all the military provides is two flag folders and a bugler at your loved one’s funeral. Many of our nation’s heroes, indigent servicemen and women who have died at area VA hospitals with no one left to bury them, (we call them “Forgotten Heroes”) have been laid to rest here at our National Cemetery without honors at their final salute.

This is just one of the reasons that the Miss-Lou Veterans Coalition was formed just a few months ago. Our primary short-term priority is to form and train a professional honor guard to serve the Miss-Lou’s veterans, to give that final salute and to serve our area with the presentation of colors at local events.

Miss-Lou Veterans Coalition Board of Directors includes: Doug McCallister, president; Col. John Curran, secretary; Conrad Anderson, accountant; Rodney Violette, honor guard commander, Miss Sheila Smith; Vernon Stevens and Mike Lamasney.

Our honor guard was formed in the beginning of April with four very dedicated veterans. We have as members: two U.S. Army Vietnam veterans, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait, and one U.S. Navy Seaman.

Soon we will add our first woman veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 30 years. This is the minimum necessary to function as either a color guard or a rifle team, but not both. Our goal is to be able to field a four-person color guard, an eight-person rifle team, bugler and commander. We have plenty of room for growth.

To date, we’ve performed a flag ceremony at the Natchez National Cemetery on the Saturday before Memorial Day, providing instruction to the children and adults that gathered on the proper way to honor and respect our American Flag. We participated in Memorial Day services at the National Cemetery with a four-person rifle squad, teaming up with the JRROTC from the Natchez High School that provided the color guard. Our honor guard fired a volley of three blank rounds as a rifle squad. Early in June, our honor guard participated in a very moving ceremony with our local fire department honor guard and the firefighting academy during their state convention at the Natchez Convention Center to honor 30 firefighters from Mississippi that have died in the line of duty. Soon we will be on a training mission with the Natchez Fire Department to help them create their own professional honor guard. Our schedule is rapidly filling up.

Our intention is to form a top-notch military honor guard. As commander, I bring with me 43 years of honor guard experience and 37 years commanding a state and national champion color guard from the state of Minnesota. Advanced rifle and flag maneuvers are taught from the very beginning, and the results from this type of training are something that very few people have ever seen before. Our flag equipment is brand new and we are using 8-pound, Springfield rifles in our rifle squad so we are very well equipped to handle any request that may arise. One of our ultimate goals is to take a color guard to the National American Legion Championships (one of the best in the country) in 2015 or 2016. Our uniforms, which are purchased by our coalition with fundraisers, are the finest that any of us have ever had the privilege of wearing and instills pride in all that wear it. We are truly building a very professional team and having a lot of fun in the process.

Our honor guard is fun, challenging, integrated, cathartic for the veteran and a very honorable undertaking for our veterans and our community. Please consider being a member if you are a veteran.

You do not have to belong to any veteran’s organization, and there are no dues or meetings other than regular practice sessions. For information call me at 601-442-3109 or e-mail me at rodneyjviolette@live.com.


Rodney Violette is the commander of the Miss-Lou Veterans Coalition honor guard