The Denham Springs branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars gathered community leaders and the families of fallen soldiers for a memorial service Monday that included reading names of fallen soldiers, a volley of gunfire and playing taps.

VFW Quartermaster Vance Sutton said groups like his should honor soldiers who died in action because, “If we don’t who will? We need to take time out to honor those who have fallen for our country. It’s just our duty.

“Instead of just having a three-day holiday, we do need to take at least one hour out to honor those who have died. I mean they gave it all.”

The ceremony kicked off with a presentation of flags, an invocation by the Rev. Keith Zachary, New Covenant Baptist pastor, and about halfway through the service, several VFW members laid poppies on the casket, which stood as a symbol of all the soldiers and veterans from the Denham Springs area who have died in the past year.

Afterwards, VFW Auxiliary President Viola Singleton, of Watson, laid a wreath from the Auxiliary Club and explained the poppies are significant because they “are made by disabled veterans.

“We purchase those and it’s a fundraiser,” she said. “We go to Wal-Mart or wherever they’ll let us set up little tables to sell, and the money goes toward helping the veterans. We send care boxes overseas for the veterans, or if there’s a veteran in need, we try to help them.”

Singleton said the money has been used to support veterans in a variety of practical ways. The money has been used to help some veterans pay their electric bills, and one veteran in South Africa gets a newspaper subscription thanks to the fund.

After laying the wreaths, a roll call of the deceased soldiers from this past year was given by Sutton, who later estimated that about 200 names were called.

Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said he feels it’s important for the people of Denham Springs to “never forget what these people gave up to get us here. They paid the ultimate price.

“Isn’t it Lee Greenwood’s song that says ‘I’m proud to be an American but I’m glad I’m free?’ It’s not just the veterans honoring their fallen soldiers. It’s the whole community pulling together because that’s what it’s all about.”

Mike McNaughton, a veteran from Denham Springs, was present at the ceremony. He served from 1990 to 2000 active duty in the Army and from 2001 to 2004 in the Louisiana National Guard. McNaughton was injured during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

For McNaughton, serving his country was important, “because it’s something that my relatives, my uncle ... everyone did before me. It’s patriotic. A lot of people who came here have someone they have lost — for them it may be closure.”

Singleton said the event is important for the Denham Springs community because “they need to be remembered because they went and gave their lives, and it’s the least we can do every year. The families appreciate the ceremony because it helps them remember, and it shows that we appreciate what the soldiers do for our country. They give us our freedom.”