By Spc. Joshua Barnett, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana marked its 200th year of statehood with a grand military parade through the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, Nov. 10, 2012.
The festivities coincided with Veterans Day weekend, which gave the public a chance to show their support for the men and women of America’s military, past and present. More than 1,200 service members and veterans marched and rode past Jackson Square in a procession that echoed a similar parade held in 1912 to commemorate the state’s first hundred years
The parade began with the National Colors carried by the Louisiana National Guard’s 1-141st Field Artillery Regiment, also known as the Washington Artillery, the oldest field artillery unit in the United States. Music was provided by marching bands from each branch of service, led by the Army’s Old Guard Drum and Fife Corps, wearing their customary Revolutionary-War style uniforms.
“Today we recognize the State of Louisiana’s attainment of statehood, the preservation of its historical past, and its contributions to the growth and strength of the United States,” Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard. “The military has served a pivotal role in our past and present, and will continue to serve as such in our future.”
“As we come to celebrate the bicentennial of Louisiana … it is an opportunity to thank all of our veterans for everything that they have done to preserve freedom both at home and abroad, HOOAH!” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The parade was organized by the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission, under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. “As we celebrate 200 years of Louisiana history, we say thank you to the real heroes and the real people who should be recognized and honored today, and those are the men and women of our military,” said Dardenne.
In addition to marching in the parade, The Louisiana National Guard was also tasked with planning and executing many of the parade activities. As the state’s military department, the National Guard was primarily responsible for logistics, transportation, narration and other duties to make the parade successful.
The 1-141st provided the honor guard and a salute battery to fire cannons over the Mississippi River and members of the 139th Regional Support Group drove their trucks in the parade, while the 159th Fighter Wing flew F-15s overhead.
“The Louisiana National Guard has a long, proud history of protecting the State of Louisiana, the country and the world,” said Curtis.
Carried in the parade were a set of WWII dog tags, recently found near Normandy, France. The government of France repatriated the dog tags of John Mack, a Louisiana native who served in 1944 in the Red Ball Express, a primarily African-American transportation unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The tags were donated by the Mack family to the National WWII Museum, where they will be displayed for all to see.
The parade concluded with an enlistment ceremony at the National WWII Museum. More than 170 new Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen, representing the latest generation to serve, took the oath of enlistment in front of the museum before a large crowd of family, friends and supporters.