Veterans, volunteers honored during ceremony

Published 5:24 pm Thursday, November 11, 2021

NATCHEZ — In celebration of Veterans Day 2021, Home With Heroes Foundation honored four individuals in front of a full-house at the Natchez City Council Chambers on Thursday. 

Al Johnson, Chairman on Home With Heroes, said Thursdays presentation recognizes both veterans and “individuals in the community who have worked tirelessly for veterans.”

One such person is Pattie Reed Jones, who is the founder and president of Operation G.R.I.T.S., which stands for Gifts Raised in the South.

Email newsletter signup

The nonprofit organization based in Vidalia, La., has sent thousands of gift boxes to soldiers serving overseas during the holiday season, each packed with loads of goodies, toiletries, and other items. 

Home With Heroes Founder G. Mark LaFrancis said “Pattie’s human army” has spent countless hours collecting, sorting, packing and mailing the boxes — all while Jones’ “joyful spirit and great smile inspires her troops.”

Not only does the charity provide commodities that are sometimes limited for soldiers overseas, but in 2014 started shipping King Cakes to soldiers, giving them a taste of home and of Mardi Gras.

For this effort, Jones received the “Soldier’s Friend” award from the Home With Heroes Foundation and the Mayor’s Veterans Task Force. Her colleague, Amy DeWitt, accepted the award on Jones’ behalf, who could not be at the presentation due to prior vacation plans.

“This is true to my heart,” Dewitt said. She added two of her sons are actively serving in the United States Military.

Rosena Profice, who has worked with the Veterans Ministry at the Zion Hill #1 Baptist Church for the past decade, was recognized with the “Patriot of the Year” award. 

“This involves planning and coordinating events to recognize not only veterans of her church, but veterans throughout the surrounding areas,” LaFrancis said. “Also, she has successfully written several mini-grants to secure additional funding for projects on behalf of veterans. Each year seems to take her involvement and love for veterans to a higher magnitude.”

LaFrancis added Profice is often seen at many functions benefiting veterans, including volunteering at the National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America, a national event where Christmas wreaths decorate the headstones of veterans.  

“When you talk to veterans and realize what they’ve been through — the sacrifices they make and going to all of these places not by their choice but for us — you can’t help but show appreciation towards them,” Profice said. “They deserve every bit of recognition they get and more.”

John Floyd, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9573 in Natchez, received the “Veteran of the Year” award. 

As a VFW commander, Floyd oversees a team of veterans in performing a wide range of services in the community, LaFrancis said.

“He personally drives the Veterans Administration van twice a week to and from the Veterans Administration hospital and clinics in Jackson,” he said. “In addition, Commander Floyd oversees the preparation of meals for The Stewpot, installation of American Flags along our city’s streets and roads, emergency aide for veterans, American Flag Retirement Ceremonies, and many, many more services.”

LaFrancis said Floyd was recently recognized at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, where he was elected District Commander. He served in the United State Army as a mechanic and recovery commander for more than 28 years, including one year in Iraq and three months in recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. 

“I want to receive this on behalf of my team, not me,” Floyd said, referring to his comrades in the VFW post. 

Each honoree was presented with a framed certificate and a flag that had been flown over the capitol in their honor.

In addition, senior veteran John “Captain Jack” Kerwin led a Patriot Parade on Thursday afternoon as the Parade Marshal. Kerwin, who is 95-years-old, is no stranger to long walks and led the walking parade from Memorial Park to the Natchez bluff.

Kerwin served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.