Grand opportunity to help veterans

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 8, 2015

Rodney Violette, my good friend and Vietnam combat veteran, recently said veterans in the Miss-Lou are headed in a new and exciting direction.

It’s true. We have reached out to all veterans’ organizations and they have responded to the call, what I like to term “A Call to Action.”

One of the projects we believe is urgently needed is a veterans museum and resource Center.

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Currently, there isn’t a building in the Miss-Lou that veterans can call home. We have a terrific veterans resource officer, but Sonjagela Johnson has a small office on the second floor of the Natchez Senior Citizen Center. That’s it. That’s all.

Our veterans of all conflicts, of all branches deserve recognition. A museum and resource center would offer just such recognition, and would open up to the public — and tourists — the great contributions our men and women have made in their service to our great country.

We need your support. Home With Heroes Foundation Inc., a Miss-Lou-based nonprofit organization, is leading the effort, with the support of the Miss-Lou Veterans Coalition. None of our officers or board members earns any compensation for what we do. We truly are a corps of volunteers.

We will present a letter to Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and the Natchez Board of Aldermen to initiate a study to create a museum during our visit with the board Tuesday at 11 a.m. in council chambers on Pearl Street. We will present a similar letter to other public bodies soon.

If you are a veteran, or veteran supporter, please show up and show your support. Clearly, there must be thousands of artifacts of our veterans in closets, attics, garages, basements, etc., that could be loaned or donated to the museum so all visitors can see our area’s contributions to protecting our country.

A museum concept would be akin to the visitor center at the Grand Village of the Historic Natchez Indians, the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture, or the Brookhaven Veterans Museum. All are fine facilities with offices, display rooms, and rooms to hold meetings or present programs to the public and schools.

In the years I have been presenting programs to schools, I’ve learned too few students have first-hand knowledge of our area’s veterans and their service. The museum would allow them to see, hear, touch history and gain a greater appreciation for our veterans. Tourists too would be attracted to the museum, as they are in many other communities across America that have such museums. Brookhaven’s veterans’ museum’s visitor’s book contains names of people from around the globe.

So, please lend your voice by showing up Tuesday, or calling your local representative, sending an email, commenting on our facebook pages (Home With Heroes, MLVC and others). Call me if you wish to join our effort, even contribute to it (tax-deductible, of course).

Together we can create a lasting, visible tribute to all our veterans of all conflicts, letting them know all in the Miss-Lou thank them for their service.

As always, please pray for our men and women in uniform around the world.

G. Mark LaFrancis is president of the Home With Heroes Foundation Inc. of the Miss-Lou.