Balloons soar as Louisiana’s fallen soldiers honored on 12th Military Family Day _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana senators Tuesday released balloons on the steps of the State Capitol to remember Louisiana's fallen heroes as part of the 12th Annual Military Family Day.

Louisiana state senators embraced the tearful family members of fallen service men and women from Louisiana, while honoring their legacies of service to the country.

On Tuesday, the Senate recognized six Louisianians who served in the military and died in the past year, as well as one Blue Star Mother who was dedicated to honoring military veterans and their families.

Lynette Miller Bell was honored for her work as a Blue Star Mother in Baton Rouge, where she spearheaded a military ministry at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.

Bell lobbied the lawmakers to pass legislation to prevent protests at soldiers’ funerals and to create the Gold Star license plate to honor fallen military.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Damon Taunton Williams, of Slidell, a career serviceman who did five overseas tours, including one on the ground, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, died last year from cancer.

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Jack Lindsey, of Ruston, was on his way to realizing a life-long dream of being an Air Force pilot, when he was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While 18 years old, Lindsey was skiing and crashed into a tree, causing him to lose his life.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Smith, of Destrehan, specialized in aviation and manned helicopters during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Smith was deployed overseas for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. But in November 2015, while taking part in a routine training mission, his aircraft crashed for unknown reasons.

Louisiana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Rutledge, who lived in Pineville, did several tours and served as a combat medic. He was deployed first in 2011 for Operation New Dawn and did his final tour in Afghanistan in 2013. He died at 27.

U.S. Air Force Sgt. Johnny James Kelly, a New Orleans native, spent 10 years in the Air Force and did tours in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kelly died in March 2015 while serving in Las Vegas.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Bryan Michael Lauw, of Watson, served on the USS America, an amphibious assault ship in Central and South America and later was deployed to Jordan. While training at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, Lauw was killed in a training exercise in September 2015.

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