Family and friends gather to honor Addy Melancon for his service in the Louisiana National Guard during World War II as a French interpreter, at his home in Henderson.

"The French language helped me a lot in life, before the war, during and after." From a distinguished Louisiana war veteran, Addy Melancon, that is an important lesson for our state, which should cherish its Francophone heritage.

Melancon, 99, joined the Louisiana National Guard in 1940, serving in the French-speaking unit that was so valuable in World War II, where much fighting occurred on French-speaking lands in Europe and Africa and sometimes in the Pacific islands.

In 1945, he served as an officer in Europe, an interpreter between members of his tank unit and French civilians.

With his family, including Guard member Emily Hardy, his great-granddaughter, Melancon is a living example for our society on several levels, but his experience as a bilingual soldier and officer stands out for us today. It is a reminder that French is useful in the larger world and its preservation — in Canada, Louisiana and elsewhere in the former French colonies — is an important task for us.