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    Leesville, Vernon Parish open arms to Fort Polk Soldiers

    Walking in steps of heroes

    Photo By Chuck Cannon | Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commander, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk,...... read more read more



    Story by Chuck Cannon 

    Fort Johnson Public Affairs Office

    FORT POLK, La. — Hundreds of area residents
    lined Leesville’s Third Street to show their
    appreciation to the Soldiers of Fort Polk during a
    parade that recalled a similar event that occurred
    on the same street during World War II on March
    10, 1943.
    “This is a very important day for the Joint
    Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk,” Brig.
    Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commanding general,
    JRTC and Fort Polk, said. “The mayor and leaders
    from around the region came to me and said
    we would like to have an appreciation event for
    the 8,000 Soldiers that make up the Joint Readiness
    Training Center and Fort Polk. We said that
    is an outstanding idea. Let’s recreate the 1943 parade
    that happened right down this street in
    front of us.”
    More than 600 Soldiers participated in the parade
    that ran the length of Third Street and ended
    at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building
    where the Soldiers and their Families were treated
    to a meal. Signs of patriotism were abundant
    as American flags and red, white and blue beads
    were passed out to the crowd.
    The Military Affairs Committee of the Vernon
    Parish Chamber of Commerce hosted the event
    that included a breakfast for local and Fort Polk
    Frank was one of three guest speakers during
    a pre-parade press conference on the lawn of the
    Old Court House in downtown Leesville attended
    by local media. Leesville Mayor Rick Allen
    spoke first and said Vernon Parish had finally accomplished
    what it has wanted to do for years —
    blur the line between Fort Polk and Leesville.
    “Now everyone understands that when it benefits
    Fort Polk, it benefits Louisiana, and when it
    hurts Fort Polk, it hurts Louisiana,” Allen said. I
    think we’re in a great position.”
    Allen introduced Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy
    Nungesser, the next speaker. Nungesser thanked
    the Soldiers and Families of Fort Polk for their
    “I have a great appreciation for our military,
    and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be today than
    here to celebrate the men and women coming
    home, that have given up their time away from
    their Families so we could be with ours in freedom,”
    Nungesser said.
    The lieutenant governor pledged to “do everything
    in my power every day I’m lieutenant governor”
    to support Fort Polk’s Soldiers and Families.
    “It’s an honor to be here to welcome home our
    heroes,” he said. “There is nowhere else I’d
    rather be today than here.”
    U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana’s Fourth
    Congressional District, was next to take the podium
    and said he had been looking forward to the
    parade for some time.
    “It’s a great reminder of the valor and sacrifices
    of all our troops,” he said. “I want to thank
    Vernon Parish and the City of Leesville for all
    they do for our troops.
    Johnson said the Vernon Parish community is
    known in Washington as a friendly, hospitable
    place for Soldiers and their Families.
    “That means a lot to the Pentagon, the members
    of Congress and our commander in chief,”
    he said. “We like to say this is the best hometown
    in the Army, and this is the reason for it.”
    Frank was the final speaker and spoke about
    how the day’s events continued a tradition begun
    on that March day in 1943. He said the bank
    building across Third Street from the Old Court
    House, is the same building in an historic portrait
    that sits in Fort Polk’s headquarters building.
    “I walk by it (portrait) each day,” he said.
    “We’re going to recreate that piece of history and
    tradition today, as the Soldiers march down this
    street as they did in the 1943 parade. That’s the
    connection between Leesville, Vernon Parish and
    Fort Polk. Those Soldiers were in the midst of
    World War II, our Soldiers today, 3rd Brigade,
    10th Mountain Division, are just coming back
    from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.”
    But Frank said today’s parade was not just for
    those Soldiers returning home.
    “There are 8,000 Soldiers assigned to Fort
    Polk,” he said. “They have a very important mission:
    We train the U.S. Army at Fort Polk. We insure
    that those infantry brigade combat teams
    are well trained at the training center, and that
    they go into theatre and combat the most prepared
    that the U.S. Army can get them.”
    While that is important, Frank said the day’s
    festivities were about the connection between
    Fort Polk and the local community.
    “Our Soldiers live in your neighborhoods,
    they go to your churches, their children go to
    your schools, they shop in your communities,”
    he said. “You welcome them with open arms.”
    Frank said that although there is a fence surrounding
    Fort Polk, “We’d like to think that fence
    is not there, that it’s seamless, between Vernon
    Parish and Fort Polk, and that we’re all neighbors
    here together inside of Vernon Parish.
    Thank you for inviting us here today, we look
    forward to celebrating the relationship between
    Leesville, the surrounding communities and Fort
    During a question and answer session following
    the press conference, Frank was asked what
    made an assignment at Fort Polk special.
    “The other day I had a photograph that I
    showed to the staff and some of the commanders,
    that was taken on my iPhone up along the
    highway heading back into the fort,” he said. “It
    was a picture of all the flags that were along the
    median, that start out at Fort Polk and run all the
    way through the City of Leesville, and stretch
    out toward Anacoco and beyond. (Anacoco)
    Mayor (Keith) Lewing told me today how he was
    fighting with the Department of Transportation
    to keep those flags out for another weekend, because
    of what it means to the people around this
    It’s those values, Frank said, that make an assignment
    at Fort Polk special.
    “We talk to our Soldiers every day about
    Army values,” he said. “It’s what makes us the
    best Army in the world. There’s an intersection
    in this area of Army values and Louisiana values.
    They are small town values; that’s the way people
    are raised here, it’s what they believe in, and
    that is why you see those American flags along
    the roads.”
    But that’s not all, Frank said.
    “Having the privilege to lead Soldiers at Fort
    Polk is the greatest honor that I’ve ever had,” he
    “Fort Polk is the crown jewel of the Army. It’s
    a combat training center for the U.S. Army, and
    when you talk about all the other units that we
    have that have a globally deployable mission,
    there is no greater responsibility than to be able
    to serve with those Soldiers every day. It’s my
    honor to do that. Today is a great opportunity for
    us to give back to the local community.”



    Date Taken: 07.20.2018
    Date Posted: 07.23.2018 09:31
    Story ID: 285301
    Location: FORT POLK, LA, US

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