CARENCRO — The Carencro Veterans Memorial, unveiled Tuesday at a packed Veterans Day dedication, was a two-year project conceived during a telephone conversation and constructed with help from soldiers who long ago fell in battle.
“It’s a project I always wanted to do,” Mayor Glenn Brasseaux said. “Our memorial has created a feeling that’s indescribable.”
On Tuesday, the expected crowd of 200 climbed well past 300 and included at least 50 military veterans. Parking was at a premium on East St. Peter Street, where the memorial sits beneath four flags in front of City Hall. Nearby, the bells in the 140-year-old St. Peter Roman Catholic Church sounded every quarter-hour.
Brasseaux recounted the January 2013 day he received a phone call from L.J. Melancon. Melancon and his wife Annette, owners of Melancon Marble & Granite, wanted to donate a bench of theirs for a memorial honoring military veterans that didn’t yet exist in Carencro.
Almost two years later, after hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars in donated cash and in-kind services, Carencro has its memorial. Sitting beneath four flags in front of City Hall, it has 16 granite columns that stand 4 feet high with names of local fallen military men etched in the stone; hundreds of red bricks with donors’ names lie in squares; and six granite benches, including the one from the Melancons.
Among those honored are 17 military men who hailed from the Carencro area and were killed in U.S. wars: 11 in World War II; five in the Korean War; one in Iraq.
“Many have shed blood, many have died,” Brasseaux said, “Everybody has a story to tell.”
Lynn Guidry, an architect who designed the memorial and oversaw construction, said architects are taught to speak to the monuments they build and to listen to what they say. He said that while it may have looked to others like he was talking to himself at times during construction, he really was having a multiparty conversation with the stone and bricks he was working with.
“There is a dialogue between us and our buildings,” Guidry said.
Guidry said he also listened to what the fallen soldiers had to say about where to locate the memorial. The front of City Hall, where the memorial eventually was built, was one of three locations under consideration. Guidry said that one day at dusk, sunlight reflected off the tower at St. Peter Church and created extra-worldly shades of light.
“It was almost like God had kissed the tower,” Guidry said. “We realized the veterans had picked this site a long time ago.”
The veterans at the dedication Tuesday were a mix of young, middle-aged, old and very old: World War II veteran Carroll E. Guilbeaux led the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the rear of the crowd 59-year-old Arnold Gregoire leaned on a cane.
An Army veteran who served at the end of the Vietnam War, he became emotional describing Americans’ attitudes toward veterans now and 40 years ago.
He said the adulation veterans receive now was missing during the Vietnam era.
“I’m glad they recognize vets now. It makes me proud,” Gregoire said.