Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony 2012

Steve and I attended the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony today sponsored by the Friends of the Municipal Auditorium. 

The Municipal Auditorium is located on the west end of downtown Shreveport and was built in the 1920s.  It is probably now most famous for being one of the first places Elvis Presley performed but many other musical legends performed there.  The building is noted for its intricate brickwork, acoustical perfection, and art deco styling.

Note on the front it says "Dedicated to those who served in the World War." 

The building was placed on the National Register for Historic Places:

Here's a plaque posted inside with a bit of the history:

There's a nice little museum inside where you can learn about the history of the place and tours are offered:

And, of course, there are reportedly ghosts in residence, too.

Sadly, there were probably more ghosts in attendance than people there to honor the veterans.

The Friends of the Municipal Auditorium had a lovely ceremony organized; a nice sign in table and refreshments greeted you upon entry:

But this is a "crowd shot" taken right after the ceremony started:

One more small group came in after I took this bringing us up to a total of 24 people in attendance. 

Shameful.  Granted, it is Sunday and maybe church ran late for some people, the weather is a little dicey, and there is a Veterans Parade later in the afternoon at the Fair Grounds, so maybe people had other things to do.  Still, it was a sad showing.

Emcee Tom Pace opened the ceremony: there was the invocation and the posting of colors; Meredith McLellan sang a beautiful a capella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner."  We had bagpipes and a drummer who played "Amazing Grace."

The 2012 Inductees included Corporal Cleauthor Sanders, Corporal Frank Buckles, Lt. Commander Seal Jonas B. Kelsall, and Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Seal Robert J. Reeves.

A late addition to the program was Senator Mary Landrieu who called and asked to attend the ceremony; she wasn't on the program but she made a late entrance after the ceremony had already started. 

Senator Landrieu took the stage and read a prepared speech, primarily, it seemed to politicize the event and garner publicity for herself.  She spoke about what she had been doing throughout the state to honor veterans, about a parade she and her brother attended in New Orleans with the Lt. Governor, Jay Dardenne, and about the Drum Corps from the Revolutionary War descendants who participated in that parade.  With the father of CPO Robert Reeves sitting on stage not ten feet away from her, she talked about how now Osama bin Laden is dead and the Taliban is on the run.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to turn on my video camera.  If the local media captured her speech I will add it at the bottom later.  It was bizarre.

Some of the veterans in attendance were stunned to hear Senator Landrieu usurp the solemn ceremony for political grandstanding.

As if that weren't bad enough, she closed her remarks with comments about General Petraeus.  An induction ceremony for four honored veterans was not the forum for Senator Landrieu to preach to us about General David Petraeus.  She reminded the audience that we "are not perfect" and that only Jesus Christ was perfect. 

"I want to go on record here today," she said about Petraeus.  "I'm a fan."  She noted his honorable career and sat down.

It wasn't the time or place.

Following that bizarre addition to the program, the awards commenced.  Corporal Cleauthor Sanders was in attendance with his wife and family.  He spoke briefly about his time of service and then the Friends of the Municipal Auditorium presented his pen and ink portrait by local artist Jerry Harris.  Corporal Sanders also got a smaller version of the portrait to take home.

Senator Landrieu jumped up to shake his hand and announced that she would see to it that Corporal Sanders and his family are flown to New Orleans for a tour of the World War II museum.

The father of CPO Reeves accepted the award and portrait of his son and that of Lt. Commander Kelsall for his family (the two boys were childhood and lifelong friends here in Shreveport).

Mr. Reeves gave a very moving speech about his son and closed by saying that for the two of them "to be on that helicopter, together, at that time, well, it had to be God's will." 

(Kelsall and Reeves were on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan on August 11, 2011, killing both of them and 28 other souls.)

It was a very nice ceremony, despite Senator Landrieu's bizarre speech, and from there many departed to head to the fairgrounds for the Veterans Parade. 

I believe Senator Landrieu was on her way there as well.

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