● By Aimee Cormier
By Becca Cord / Submitted Photos
It’s no secret that Louisiana has not only a rich culture, but also a rich history. Louisiana is home to over 300,000 veterans, many of whom are respected and celebrated right here in Acadiana. The Louisiana Military Hall of Fame is particularly devoted to the cause. Their mission is to “honor and celebrate the military veterans of Louisiana,” but they do much more than that.
The Military Hall of Fame, located at the Chris Crusta Memorial Airport in Abbeville was founded in 2007, which would mark the beginning of their dedication to developing the Louisiana Veteran’s History Database, restoring war time pieces for exhibits and demonstrations for the veterans and public alike, and continuing to raise money for ongoing veteran remembrance and appreciation.
Since its grand opening in 2008, the museum has grown into the resource that it is today at the hands of its members and volunteers. Some of their projects include restoration of Bell helicopters and the Higgins landing craft. They even facilitate moving exhibits like the PV-2 Harpoon. These exhibits provide the community with historic relics that will tell the stories of our Veteran’s experiences. The museum encourages all community members to volunteer in these fun and enriching projects that are showcased via free and group tours at the facility. These exhibits also have a significant influence on the youth of Acadiana, as the museum offers special activities for school and youth groups.
Unfortunately, the museum received a considerable funding decrease due to cutbacks from the Secretary of State, so their exhibits are currently only accessible to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. “As additional funding becomes available, the museum will go back to its usual hours,” says Pete LeBlanc, one of the creators of the aforementioned Louisiana Veteran’s History database. He also highly encourages Acadiana residents to get involved by volunteering or becoming a member. It’s easy to volunteer by signing up directly on the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame website, lamilitarymuseum.com, but for those with limited time, becoming a member is also an option. It’s a great way to give back and support the museum’s efforts. They have several levels of membership, from student memberships to lifetime supporter memberships, and they have a special membership level for veterans themselves.
Two newer developments that the museum has focused efforts on in particular are their Veteran Induction Ceremonies and building their Veteran Database to help bring together Louisiana war veterans with the goal of “making sure our veterans are never forgotten and allowing our communities to display a vital piece of our nation’s history.” The museum is heavily dedicated to locating and documenting Acadiana’s veteran population throughout the year. They are currently building their database by asking for veterans or veterans’ families to submit their information directly to the organization. This will allow them to take the information collected and distribute it among the veteran community. With the proper funding, the museum representatives hope to not only display this information for veterans’ descendants for years to come, but also to increase the information’s accessibility by creating a online resource located on their website. Each veteran would have his own “homepage” for viewing information like veterans’ rank and position, service time and places, medals of distinction, special status, picture, video and audio clips and more.
If you are a veteran or know someone who is and would like to submit your information to this ever-growing database, files can be delivered to the museum on DVD or CD or emailed to email@example.com with the name of the veteran and the person submitting. Actual pictures, documents and video or audio clips must be brought to the museum. “Our goal is to maintain these records for present and future generations so we can always remember and honor our Louisiana veterans,” states a museum representative.
Not only will the database be a go-to resource, but it will also give more veterans the opportunity to participate in events such as the ongoing Veteran Induction ceremonies. Each induction ceremony is held twice a year at the museum in both the spring and the fall. Every May and November the facility opens its doors to all friends and family of the inductees, and the event is free to attend. Additional fundraising events are also sprinkled throughout the year, such as their 4th annual Skeet Shooting Fundraiser held in February to help raise money for the further development of these important preservation projects.
“A Salute to Our Heros” will take place the same weekend as the induction ceremony, May 30, 2015 at 10 a.m. It was developed by Emile Hebert of Lafayette as part of his Eagle Scout Project, the event hosted by the museum will have no shortage of activities including key speakers, plenty of live music, veteran groups booths for perusing and a 21-gun Salute. Families are encouraged to come and participate in this important event, and will even have fun activities for young ones to enjoy. For those who can’t make the event on the 30th, there will also be an opportunity to attend the separate flyover and display of a World War II B-17 bomber on Friday May 29. Crystal Mouton, the museum director, can be contacted at the museum for more details on events.