Louise Strong attends and plans events to honor war veterans with a picture of strikingly handsome U.S. Air Force Captain Fred Cutrer by her side. Harsh thunderstorms battered Port Hudson National Cemetery on the morning of May 4, and many attendees bowed out of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument, but Cutrer was there, pictured and in spirit. Strong never forgets.
Remembering the sacrifices of veterans and their families is one of several tasks embraced by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Strong coordinated the recent monument dedication honoring those who, like her cousin, served in the Vietnam War.
Cutrer was shot down two days after the United States officially entered combat in Vietnam. “We searched for 30 years, we had to go to the government and beg them to find him,” Strong said.
Cutrer was listed as missing in action for 30 years before the U.S. government got approval to go back into Vietnam to recover remains. A young man who was a child during the war was able to bring crews to the site of the downed plane. “They excavated 20 feet down because the monsoons had covered everything where the plane was located,” Strong said. “They brought him and his co-pilot home, and they interred them at Arlington after 30 years.”
Strong said the family, including brother Hugh Cutrer, a longtime resident of Baker, were able to find closure and see him put to rest with honor and dignity. “I have his picture in the car and I always bring it in case there’s a place for displays,” she said. “I always bring him to events because he’s never forgotten.”
The Baton Rouge and Louisiana DAR groups were joined by diverse lineup of participants representing the Blue Star Mothers of America, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Baton Rouge Caledonian Pipes and Drums, the Louisiana and National cemeteries, and the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, represented by Secretary Joey Strickland who gave the keynote address.
The weather was a challenge, but heavy rains couldn’t wash away the sense of urgency. “The monument is here and we could not move it indoors,” Strong said. “Even though we moved it to a shelter, we couldn’t move it (to another date). It’s never going to be perfect in Louisiana. No matter what we do, our soldiers need to be recognized; they are dying by the day.”
This historic cemetery is still quite active, and Strong said this is the first Vietnam veterans’ memorial placed in Louisiana under the U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration Partnership. The Commemorative Partner Program is designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to help honor Vietnam veterans and their families.
Commemorative Partners, like the DAR, are encouraged to participate in the commemoration of the Vietnam War and the recognition of the service, valor and sacrifice of veterans. Partners must commit to conducting two events or activities each year for a three-year period.
Strong said her group often walks the cemetery’s Section G cremation section and it is almost all Vietnam veterans. “Our veterans are dying in such huge numbers that we wanted to get this done so that hopefully they and their families from that age can see that they are appreciated,” she said.