Anne Causey, executive director of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, hosted the annual Memorial Day program at the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery on Friday.
Anne Causey, executive director of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, hosted the annual Memorial Day program at the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery on Friday. James Dean of Lake Charles performed "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes. Presentation of colors was by members of D Company, 2-4 IN, 4th BCT 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk. Michael L. Kuk, PhD, Chief Fire Chaplain of Vernon Parish, gave the invocation and benediction. Kuk, a Vietnam Veteran, said he began his career with training at Fort Polk, and served as a U.S. Army fire fighter. Ret. Major Daniel A. Willson, Jr., U.S. Air Force, was guest speaker. Willson graduated from Leesville High School in 1985, and from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989. He is a retired Air Force pilot with more than 3,500 flying hours, mostly in B-52 and KC-135 aircraft. He has served in almost every conflict since Desert Storm, flown combat and combat support sorties, worked in Central Command's Air Operating Center Headquarters during the Iraq War, and flew the unmanned Predator over Bosnia and Kosovo. He is employed by Air Force Global Strike Command as an acquisition expert for B-2 and B-52 simulators. Willson is the son of Anne Causey and the late Lt Col Daniel Willson, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The family's history of military service dates back to the Civil War, and to the Revolutionary War, where Eliakim Hatch, Willson's fifth great grandfather, served. Willson said he began to appreciate how fragile life is when his father passed away. He has been learning about his family history and lineage. Willson said he has traveled around the world with the military. He has visited Iwo Jima and Mount Suribachi, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Cambridge American Cemetery, and flown over the beaches of Normandy. He said he considers these places hallowed ground along with Arlington National Cemetery, and the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery. Willson said to remember one's history, one's country, fallen comrades, and their families. Memorial wreaths were presented. Nathan Gautreaux performed "Taps." Danny Garris, cemetery director, made closing remarks. Causey recognized Howard Blackburn, a 94 year old Air Force veteran and Bronze Star Medal recipient. Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, the Priesthood, Patriot Guard of Moss Bluff, American Legion Riders Kisatchie Louisiana Post 145, American Legion Post 510, Jack Redell Memorial Chapter 20, Chapter 727 Military Order of Purple Heart, and Louisiana Veterans Affairs members participated. A photo gallery from the event is at www.leesvilledailyleader.com