salute to the veterans a look at those in the teche area military past and present a special section of
Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 24, 2011
They served for the Stars & Stripes
JEFF ZERINGUE / THE DAILY IBERIAN’
Ken Waguespack is in deep thought as he looks at memorabilia from his military career during post-WWII.
Waguespack, who was stationed in post-WWII Japan, looks back BY JEFF ZERINGUE THE DAILY IBERIAN
ilitary service offers advantages to soldiers, sailors and airmen, one opportunity is to get an education. That is what led New Iberia resident Ken Waguespack to the U.S. Army. Waguespack, 82, has been on the pages of The Daily Iberian many times over the past six decades. He is a former commander of the local Louisiana National Guard unit, a deacon who served at St. Peter’s Catholic Church and, most recently, he and his wife, Emma, were featured as when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. What few might know about is Waguespack’s military stint in Japan immediately following World War II, when he served under legendary five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur. His military start, however, began when Waguespack volunteered for the U.S. Army under the buddy system with Wilfred “Sonny” Romero in 1946. “College was expensive,” Waguespack said. “We saw the G.I. bill and said, ‘What the hell. We’ll put in two years and get our college.’ ” Before Christmas 1947, he received his orders to join the 8th Army in the Pacific in Tokyo. He would spend Christmas aboard the USS Gen.
Haan en route to Korea to drop of some troops and equipment before heading to Japan. Almost 65 years later, Waguespack said he cannot talk about much of what he did while serving overseas in Army Intelligence. On the trip over, he had volunteered for the military police, or MP. His job was to keep everyone out of B deck — the hospital section — who was not authorized to be there. Once in Tokyo, he was part of a team that investigated crime within the ranks of the soldiers. Some of it was undercover.
Headquarters was located near the Japanese naval air base Atsugi, near Yokohama, a short distance from Tokyo. The naval base had several towers along it perimeter and what looked like a moat around it. “That was the ugliest looking stuff in that moat,’ Waguespack said. “And it stunk.” At appointed times, U.S. soldiers manning the towers used to signal with three gunshots if their area was OK. “You’d hear pow, pow, pow, and you know everything was all right,” he said. “Sometimes you’d hear more than three and you knew they got somebody.” Most dangerous to American G.I.s was a tunnel that led away from the base toward Tokyo. So long as the soldiers were in groups of two or
three, most remained safe. Soldiers were not allowed to leave the base alone and every one was required to carry a firearm if they did leave, Waguespack said. Sometimes, though not all soldiers returned to base at the same time. “Usually it was one of them by himself. They’d leave with three and only two would come back,” he said. “The third one would go to one of them geisha houses.” Soldiers who sought comfort from the Japanese houses of ill repute were in danger in at least two ways. First, they had to return alone through the tunnel. Japanese resistance forces would on occasion sabotage the lighting system, jump the soldier in the dark and kill him. “They would take everything,” Waguespack said, including the soldier’s clothing. The other danger was being caught by MPs. Waguespack said criminal investigators would raid prostitution houses. Once in the building, they raid the rooms. “All you’d see is a G.I. and his behind going through the window,” he said with a chuckle. Despite the G.I.’s escape, the custom of leaving shoes at the door left investigators all the evidence they needed as each G.I. had to write his serial number inside his boots. “It was easy,” Waguespack said. SEE WAGUESPACK, PAGE 7
inside In a war zone
Spc. Jacob Sigue’s first trip abroad wasn’t on a school trip or vacation. The Bravo Company soldier was in Iraq from March 2 to Dec. 19, something he called an ‘amazing experience.’
Retired U.S. Navy Capt. L. Albert ‘Bud’ Forrest served as part of an anti-submarine group that tracked the enemy or tried to destroy them. He recalls the thrill and adrenaline rush of landing on an aircraft carrier.
After serving in the Nurse Cadet Corps during World War II, Rose Mary Rader Walker is hopeful she and others can gain veterans status for those women in the military.
salute to the veterans
page 2 / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Sub’s second in command
INDEX ■ Post-War II action Ken Waguespack, a U.S. Army veteran, was stationed in Japan, where he saw results of the atomic bomb blasts. . . . . . . .Cover story
‘Amazing experience’ Spc. Jacob Sigue of New Iberia, a member of Bravo Company’s 2156th, recently returned from Iraq. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 3
Between the wars Bennie Schovajsa served overseas in the U.S. Navy between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 4
Always wanted to fly Dracos Burke got his wish to go airborne after he became a bombardier on one of the ‘Flying Fortresses.’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 6
Nursing them all Rose Mary Rader got her wish to become a nurse and served in the Cadet Corps and later married George Walker. . . . . . .Page 8
Fought in the Gulf War Mike Lasalle was one of the first servicemen to go to Saudi Arabia near Riyadh, the country’s capital. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 9
Anti-sub hunter U.S. Navy Capt. L. Albert ‘Bud’ Forrest speaks humbly but proudly of his 24-year career in the Armed Forces . . . . . .Page 10 Profile 2011: Celebrating Our Community is a supplemental publication of , P.O. Box 9290, New Iberia, LA 70562.
Publisher . . . . . . . . . . . .Will Chapman Managing Editor . . . . . . . .Jeff Zeringue Advertising Manager . . . . . . .Alan Rini Production Manager . . . .Jerry Sexton Business Manager . . . .Amanda Seneca Circulation Manager . . . . .“J.P.” Poirier
Foret’s visits back home are few BY PATRICK FLANAGAN THE DAILY IBERIAN
ANGOR, Wash. — Lt. Cmdr. Jake Foret oversees the operations of a ballistic missile submarine for the U.S. Navy, but as an executive U.S. Naval officer, visits with friends and family in Louisiana are few and far between. A New Iberia native, Foret, 38, said the last time he and his wife, Randina, and their children Madeline, Anna and Jameson visited his parSUBMITTED ents, Jim and Paula From left, Lt. Cmdr. Jake Foret, second from left, stands with Rachel Tauzin, Amy Tabor and Joe Foret at family event. Foret, was at a family wedding last summer in Texas. His most recent return to Louisiana was ‘Our mission is during the 2009 Christmas holidays. strategic defense. The reason for Foret’s few home visits stems We’re relied on to from his job as the second in command of the USS be an undetected Louisiana, which is one of 14 remaining ballistic deterrent out missile submarines used by the U.S. Navy. there on patrol.’ “My job is responsible for making sure our ship is manned, trained, exeLt. Cmdr. Jake Foret cuting operations for all our departments and Navy officer from New Iberia meeting our operations requirements,” Foret said. ■ “Our mission is strategic defense. We’re relied SUBMITTED ready for our next on to be an undetected Jake Foret and his son Jameson Foret do some yard work at home in Bangor, Wash. patrol,” he said. deterrent out there on patrol.” Regarding his son’s milAlthough Foret said it nuclear program. strength to our strategic offshore on patrol and itary achievements, Jim is likely that other coun“Everyone probably forces and a significant three months onshore. Foret said, “He gets it tries know the location of knows where our landadvantage our president Yet, Foret said being from his mom.” the U.S. military’s landbased missiles are locathas in diplomacy.” onshore does not mean Jake said he is hoping to based nuclear missiles ed,” he said. “You can Protecting the nation he is not working. return home this summer. and strategic bombers, track aircraft on radar, from a nuclear threat “During the three “We may get a window that is not the case for the but you can’t track our requires Foret to work in months ashore, we’re of a week this summer,” country’s deep sea submarines. It’s a real rotation, three months training and getting he said.
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salute to the veterans
Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / page 3
Sigue patrols at Victory Base New Iberia Guardsman’s first trip overseas is to Baghdad BY JUSTIN HALL THE DAILY IBERIAN
he first time one travels overseas, it is sometimes during a family vacation or school trip. It is not generally to enter a war zone half a world away in Baghdad, Iraq, as was the case for New Iberia native Spc. Jacob Sigue. Sigue, a specialist for the Louisiana National Guard’s Bravo Company 2156th Infantry based in New Iberia, served in the Middle East between March 2 and Dec. 19 at Baghdad’s Victory Base complex, which he said was an amazing experience. “It was a real eye-opener, but my older brother (Staff Sgt. Joshua Sigue) was out there with me,” Sigue, 22, said. “It was great meeting people from around the ‘It was great country. meeting people Everybody was really from around the friendly.” As a supcountry. plies specialist, Sigue said Everybody was he was not able to go on real friendly.’ many active missions. He did say, however, he was Spc. Jacob Sigue able to able to interact with Bravo Company 2-156th local Iraqi Infantry SUBMITTED residents Spc. Jacob Sigue, second from right, stands with Staff Sgt. Robert LeBlanc, left, Staff Sgt. Christopher Wallace, second from left, and Sgt. Brandon Youman. often. ■ “Sometimes we would go out and meet with the Boy teacher at New Iberia Senior High, said of the great typical food that gives us Scouts and Girl Scouts,” Sigue said. it was great to have his two brothers cholesterol problems,” Sigue said, laugh‘I missed all of the food, like Sigue is a four-year veteran of the come back right around the holidays. ing, adding that the first dish he had National Guard, after enlisting while “It happened right before Christmas. It upon returning home was a home-cooked the boudin, the cracklin, the attending New Iberia Senior High School. was a great treat to have them back in catfish dinner. He said he enlisted because of the edu- town,” Floyd Sigue said. Sigue said he is on orders that last jambalaya, all of the great cational opportunities the military can Unlike many of his fellow soldiers, though July, which makes him a full-time provide, the opportunity to serve beside Sigue was not without family while member of the National Guard, but his typical food that gives us his brother, but above all else he serves deployed. contract expires in 2012. He said he will out of “love for his country.” Along with his brother Joshua, Sigue be able to enjoy his time in New Iberia cholesterol problems.’ Sigue was one of more than 40 soldiers served with his fiancee Nyeha, a native because his detachment will not to return home to the armory in New of Natchitoches who is also in the Guard. deploy for a while. Iberia in December to celebrations and “She deployed with me, but we met preAs for the rest of his life in the Guard, Spc. Jacob Sigue ceremonies featuring friends, family and viously before the deployment,” Sigue Sigue said he hopes he can remain with fellow soldiers. said. the military for the rest of his career Bravo Company 2-156th Infantry “It was great seeing my mother, brothOne of the things that he missed the because he enjoys it so much. ers and sisters,” Sigue said. “We had a most while half a world away from South “I hope to stay for the next 20-25 years ■ big family party with all of my aunts and Louisiana was the Cajun food. and then retire,” Sigue said. uncles. It was fun.” “I missed all of the food, like the Sigue’s other brother Floyd, a biology boudin, the cracklin, the jambalaya, all
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salute to the veterans
page 4 / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Schovajsa works hard as vet to get hospital BY JESSICA GOFF THE DAILY IBERIAN
etired oilfield worker Bennie Schovajsa, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, spends a great deal of his time advocating for veterans’ rights for the local community. Schovajsa, 73, spent a portion of his youth in the South Pacific as a gunner’s mate for the U.S. Navy on the USS Chemung. The U.S. was between two wars at that time, he said, the Korean War had ended and a conflict in Vietnam was burgeoning. “It was just getting started up real good then,” he said. “It was mostly the Air Force, Army and Marines. We did go on maneuvers with the fleet at one time to take supplies into Vietnam, but we didn’t know what were doing because they didn’t tell us.” Schovajsa, who grew up in Houston, joined the Navy just after graduating high school
when his father, an Army veteran, gave him two options, he said. “My cousin was in the Navy and we had another cousin that was in the Army,” he said. Schovajsa “So we come back from a long line of military people. It was just the common thing. Dad told us ‘OK boys you are 18 years old. You got two choices: Go to work or go in the military.’ It wasn’t much of a choice. That was the thing back then in the 1950s. So I said ‘Well, let me go.’ ” After traveling with the Navy to places in South Asia, such as Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, Schovajsa returned from service in 1959 and moved to New Iberia to work in the oilfield, he said. Schovajsa is an active mem-
ber of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1982 and assisted in starting the Iberia Veterans Commission three years ago. He and other local veterans have been advocating for the establishment of a veteran’s hospital in Lafayette and voicing their message to legislative leaders. As of now the closest Veteran’s Administration hospital in is Alexandria. “Our veterans need all the help they can get right now because they are sure having a lot of trouble,” he said, noting the high rate of suicides, mental health issues and domestic violence brought on by post traumatic stress disorder. “They come back with all that on their minds because they see so much of it over there,” he said. Schovajsa is also one of several local veterans working to get an exhibit featuring local war heroes established inside the Bayou Teche Museum. He said his post-retirement
Proud To Have Served!
Bennie Schovajsa leans on electronic equipment aboard the USS Chemung. days allow him to keep busy with Post 1982 and the commission. He said he assists in organizing military memorials at Bouligny Plaza for every
national holiday. He credits his wife of 31 years, Faye, and all her support through the years that keep him going.
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salute to the veterans
Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / page 5
VFW Post’s Ladies Auxiliary gets boost from Thompson BY PATRICK FLANAGAN THE DAILY IBERIAN
‘We now have over 40 members in the ladies’ group.’
lfreda Thompson Jackson’s dedication to honoring the memory of America’s war veterans stems from the experience of her father and uncle, who served together in the Vietnam War. Four years ago, Jackson, a 43year-old New Iberia native who teaches at Pesson Elementary School, spearheaded an effort to form the Ladies Auxiliary for VFW Post 12065, of which she is the president. Once the post was formed in 2007, Jackson said it was decided by the group’s charter members to name it in honor of her uncle Perry E. Thompson who died while fighting with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Her uncle and father, Curtis Thompson, came from a family of 11 children, which is the reason Jackson said forming the ladies auxiliary was not a difficult task.
Alfreda Thompson Jackson Helped start VFW Post 12065’s Lady Auxiliary ■ involvement in organizing the group is rooted in the fact that she never met her uncle, who died on July 24, 1968, a year before she was born. Another reason, she said, is for her father. “He was my dad’s younger brother and they had served SUBMITTED together in the war,” she said. “I Alfreda Thompson Jackson, right, started a Ladies Auxiliary for VFW knew it was hard for my dad.” Post 12065 to honor military men who served the U.S., like her father In the four years of the organizaCurtis Thompson, left. tion’s existence, Jackson said the Ladies Auxiliary has been involved “All their sisters and brothers now have over 40 members in the in a number of activities focused became charter members of the ladies’ group.” on America’s war veterans. organization,” Jackson said. “We Jackson said the motive for her For each military holiday,
Jackson said the organization goes out to cemeteries, where they hold ceremonies honoring deceased soldiers. “We also go to local nursing homes where there are vets and we on certain days we go to the graveyards to pay homage,” she said. Since 2007, the Ladies Auxiliary has met inside the American Legion Building at the West End Park in New Iberia, Jackson said. “But we’ve been raising funds so we can get our own building.”
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salute to the veterans
page 6 / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Burke goes from flight instructor to JAG BY HOLLY LELEUX-THUBRON THE DAILY IBERIAN
racos Burke always wanted to fly. The sure way to get to fly, he thought, was to join the military. To be a pilot in the military, Burke said men had to be 20 with two years of college under their belts. Burke, 91, graduated high school at 15 years old after skipping two grades. He said he would sit often with his mother and sister as they worked on homework when he was a child. He could read when he entered first grade, he said. Burke entered Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, at 16. Something to do, he said, until he reached the eligibility age for pilot school. He completed four years of college before he reached 20, he said, one semester shy of a pre-law bachelor of arts degree. “Wanting to fly never left me,” Burke said. “It was during the depression and I didn’t have money to finish the last semester. I joined the cadets and went off to pilot training in 1940 at Love Field in Dallas.” Burke only lasted four months at pilot training, he said. There was little demand for pilots at the time, so he was disappointed. He returned to New Iberia to finish his last semester at the institute at the same time a new program was being developed for bombardiers trained on the “Flying Fortress,” or B-17, four-engine bombers. He was commissioned in June 1941 at Barksdale Air Force Base, a U.S. Army Air Corps facility at the
‘We were the first bombardier officers, so we were called to be the instructors of other cadets.’ Dracos Burke U.S. Army Air Corps bombardier officer ■ time. There was still limited demand for bomber pilots, Burke said. But, that all changed on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. “We were the first bombardier officers, so we were called to be the instructors of other cadets,” Burke said. “They first sent us to the West Coast to defend against the Japs, but it turned out they weren’t going to invade so they moved us to Albuquerque. I was assigned there as an instructor.” Burke was reassigned to a B-29 outfit, he said, the same type of bomber that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. “We were about to go overseas when they dropped the A bombs and everything just stopped,” Burke said. Burke chose to stay in the Army and was reassigned to a B-17 outfit in Germany, where the United States served as the Army of occupation. Burke stayed in Europe for 18 months
before the Air Force was created and he replaced his “khakis” with dress blues and officially became part of the U.S. Air Force. “Because I already had a college degree, they offered to send me to law school,” Burke said. “I went to the University of Denver in 1950 and when I finished became a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General.” Burke’s first station as a JAG was Tampa, Fla., before he was named Chief of Military Justice at Barksdale. His highest assignment was one he kept longer than anyone else in the history of the Air Force JAG Corps. “I got a call from a friend who told me that they needed a deputy at Strategic Air Command in Omaha,” Burke said. “That was the place to be in the Air Force. It was a general’s position, but I never was promoted. I held that job for six years which is unusual for the military.” After 30 years of service, Col. Dracos Burke finally retired from the military, reluctantly, he said. “I would have stayed there forever and worked there for nothing,” Burke said of his time in Omaha. After retirement, Burke and his wife, Carolyn, moved home. With a law degree from Colorado in hand, Burke would have had to pass the BAR in Louisiana to practice law here, he said. He enrolled at LSU and completed the second of his law degrees. He was thinking of opening a law practice in town, he said, when another old friend and fellow JAG, Knowles Tucker asked him to come on board with the district attorney’s office as his first assistant.
HOLLY LELEUX-THUBRON / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Dracos Burke, who served in WWII, looks at photos from his days as a flight instructor. “Being a prosecutor is a great job,” Burke said. “Working in that environment and with the police, was the closest thing to military life where you tell someone to do something and you know it’s going to get done.”
Burke kept in touch for years with fellow bombardiers and JAGs, he said. But, at the age of 91, colleagues still living are becoming fewer common, he said. Of 105 cadets he graduated bombardier school with, only three are
left now, he said. “We were all very close for years and years,” Burke said. “We started having annual reunions but we’ve abandoned that now because they’re aren’t many of us left.”
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salute to the veterans
Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / page 7
WAGUESPACK: Viewing the atomic bomb aftermath ‘was a horrible sight to see’ FROM PAGE 1
There was only one time Waguespack said he felt his life was in grave danger. When driving investigators in his jeep one night, he noticed they were being followed. That’s when he sped up and tried to outmaneuver their pursuers. “They were right on my tail,” Waguespack said, and shots began to come. He was able to put enough distance between the black sedan in pursuit of Waguespack and the MPs that he turned off his lights and made a U-turn under the awning of a business. “When I turned, that’s when I felt three bullets whiz by me,” Waguespack said. “We got out and took cover behind the jeep and the car just passed by us. I said, ‘I better get out of here.’ So we took off for the base.” One of the sights that visibly shakes Waguespack, even today, is seeing the results of what an atomic bomb can do. “It was a horrible sight to see,” he said. “Almost everything was flat. There wasn’t a SUBMITTED thing standing.” Ken Waguespack, shown at attention in his Waguespack also saw many of the surROTC uniform, saw Hiroshima, Nagasaki. vivors of the blasts at Hiroshima and
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Nagasaki. Hospital rooms normally used for two people held six to eight patients. The hospital still held the stench from burns. “It was horrible, walking in those hospitals. We had to wear masks,” he said. As for serving under MacArthur, Waguespack said the general spent little time in the field with the troops because it would have put them in danger. “I visited his P.T. boat once,” Waguespack said. “It was like a command ship. He used it mostly from the Phillipines to Tokyo or Korea because it was very fast.” Waguespack returned on the USS Bundy in 1948, spending another Christmas at sea. After finishing his time in the regular Army, he returned to New Iberia and began studies in engineering at Southwest Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and joined the ROTC program. He eventually joined the National Guard and worked his way up to commander of the local unit. He retired from the National Guard as a major in 1972, as well as from his insurance job at DJW Insurance. Now, he and Emma Waguespack have SUBMITTED downsized and spend their cozy life togethKen Waguespack smiles in his U.S. Army er, caring for each other in the autumn of uniform shortly after enlisting in 1946. their years.
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Left to right: Chelsea Naquin Louviere (Receptionist), Jo Delcambre (Office Manager & Accounts Payable), Troy Delcambre (Owner), Kit Delcambre (Payroll Manager), Ray Lustman (Accounts Receivable), Natalie Garza (Dispatcher)
We would like to thank each and every one of our customers for their loyalty and support throughout the years. We will continue to service everyone on a daily basis, same day service. We will continue to have technicians on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the office at 337-369-6880. We look forward to continuing doing business with our existing and potential customers.
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salute to the veterans
page 8 / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Walker active as a nurse in WWII
Wesley goes from Vietnam to VFW winner BY JUSTIN HALL THE DAILY IBERIAN
ore than 30 years after he first set foot in Vietnam as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, New Iberia native Fred Wesley said he thinks often about his experience halfway around the world. “I missed everything. I missed a part of my life,” Wesley, 62, said. “I never realized how valuable New Iberia was until I left.” Born in 1948, Wesley grew up in New Iberia, graduating from the former Jonas Henderson High School (now Westgate High) before enlisting in the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1967. Wesley said he became a ballistic meteorologist when he got to basic training, which is a skill used to study the weather for artillery and bombing missions. “We would gather all the weather data, including sending balloons up to 33,000 feet, and give it to the guys so that they could fire their guns accurately,” Wesley said. Like many young men of his generation, Wesley was shipped overseas to fight in the Vietnam War, serving one tour between January 1968 and January 1969. Wesley said when he returned, there were no celebrations or ceremonies similar to the ones they give troops coming home today, something over time he has seen as an issue. “I came from California to Lafayette to New Iberia,” Wesley said. “We never had a welcoming ceremony, but that didn’t bother me at the time. I was just so detached from the U.S. because I was in a combat zone, that I wanted to be amongst my family.” Following Vietnam, Wesley stayed in the Army, serving in Hawaii from 1971 to 1973 and Alaska from 1975 to 1977. Despite the wild changes in climate and culture, Wesley said his favorite experience from the military was meeting people from parts of the country where he had never been. “My favorite thing was serving with New Yorkers because of the way they think, their language and the dialect they use,” Wesley said. “It was really hard to understand them.”
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After his stint in the Army, Wesley worked with the National Weather Service before returning home in 1992, where he has started a family with his wife, Patricia, and his six children. “We met through the church. He was serving as a deacon through my Baptist church,” Patricia Wesley said. Once back in New Iberia, Fred and Patricia Wesley became SUBMITTED active in the Fred Wesley stands local VFW tall in uniform in ’76. posts, 1982 and 12065. Fred Wesley was recently named to the Louisiana All State Team of Post Commanders for the 2009-2010 year, a selection that was based upon his abilities as a post commander as well as exceeding his post membership goals with 71 members, Patricia Wesley said. “I am just ecstatic, it’s a great honor to help him win this award,” Patricia Wesley said. “On the women’s auxiliary and post side, we won over 30 awards, both at the state and national level.” Wesley said by working through the VFW, he has been able to give back to veterans something that he never received when he returned: that comforting, welcome home feeling. “That’s been my gift back to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, to provide something that they so rightfully needed,” Wesley said.
hen Rose Mary Rader Walker graduated from Mount Carmel Academy at 16 in 1942, her mother told her she had to go to school despite an early interest in joining the military to hopefully serve as a nurse. “You can’t do just anything you want until you’re 21,” her mother had said. At the height of World War II, the age for young women to enter nursing school was lowered to 17 and a half, Walker said. Off she went to Hotel Dieu a New Orleans hospital and nursing school run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul. In June 1943, the U.S. Congress created the WWII Nurse Cadet Corps. Walker didn’t have to be persuaded, she said. She joined at 18 years old and moved from Hotel Dieu to the U.S. Marine Hospital in New Orleans to finish the last six months of her nursing education. “We took care of the Coast Guard, veterans from several conflicts, immigrants and stowaways,” she said. “It was a great teaching hospital.” Walker said during her time at the Marine Hospital, as the war continued, the city would routinely experience blackouts and air raid sirens would be sounded regularly. She said the city was chaos. “There were soldiers and sailors everywhere,” she said. “New Orleans was a port of embarkation but no one knew where
HOLLY LELEUX-THUBRON / THE DAILY IBERIAN
After graduating from Mount Carmel Academy in 1942, Rose Mary Rader wanted to be a nurse in the military. At the height of World War II, the federal government lowered the age for young women to enter nursing school to 17 1/2. She went and later served in the Nurse Cadet Corps, where she met her husband, George Walker. they were going or where they would be sent.” There were several memorable patients that Walker cared for during her tenure at the military facility, she said, like “Francois” a stroke patient who claimed to be a bugler during the Battle of San Juan Hill under Teddy Roosevelt. Then there was the tiny Formosan man covered in scabies, dirty and with teeth black as night. “We had to quarantine him,” she said, “and paint him with yellow sulfur salve for three days. When we finally got him cleaned
up, his teeth brushed, I stepped back and told him that he wasn’t half bad looking.” Then there was George Walker, a merchant marine working out of New Orleans after a fouryear stint in the U.S. Navy. A man who saw Pearl Harbor firsthand, she said. “He was persistent, but I told him we’re not allowed to go out with patients,” Rose Mary said. George Walker wound up in the hospital for a rash, Rose Mary said. A diagnosis for rashes was tough, so the ailment was commonly referred to by the nursing staff as “the Jungle Rot.” George Walker was eventually released when his “rot” had cleared up, but he continued to visit the hospital and Rose Mary. George Walker would end up marrying Rose Mary Rader here in New Iberia at the St. Peter’s Catholic Church rectory, she said. Now retired after a career of nursing, Walker keeps in touch with many other nursing cadets, she said. There is an organized effort to try and gain veteran status, which the Nurse Cadet Corps has not been given. The Corps was part of the Public Health Service, Walker explained and there is some confusion about whether the women were actually part of the military. “They (the federal government) gave us uniforms, a stipend, paid for our education,” Walker said. “So, we’re writing letters and hopefully they’ll acknowledge us as veterans.”
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salute to the veterans Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Mike Lasalle, a U.S. Air Force serviceman, relaxes on sandbags during the Gulf War.
Lasalle one of first on ground in Saudi Arabia for Gulf War BY JESSICA GOFF THE DAILY IBERIAN
n 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, prompting a worldwide coalition to denounce Iraq’s aggression and to end occupancy in the small, neighboring country. New Iberia native Mike Lasalle, 43, was one of the first deployed with the U.S. Air Force into Saudi Arabia that same year. He was trained as part of a worldwide quick reaction team poised for “international incidents” that could develop at short notice. Part of that training, he said, was preparing to operate missions with minimal supplies in any part of the world from tropical terrain to the Arctic Circle. In the early stages of the Gulf War, LaSalle was sent with a team to secure the international airport in Saudi Arabia near Riyadh, the country’s capital. The team also was responsible for turning Saudi Arabian King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud’s personal airport into a military installation. His stay in Saudi Arabia lingered longer than
expected, he said. “We were supposed to be there for three months and because it’s a quick reaction force, we traveled real light. But we ended up spending a year there,” he said. Fortunately U.S. occupancy was embraced in that country, he said. “The king’s personal security forces were who we were working real closely with and they really accepted us,” he said. “They cooked and fed us, they were very good to us.” “Because nobody could speak English and we couldn’t speak Arabic, they would just smile at us and point at the food to indicate that was ours,” he said with a laugh. Returning from military to civilian life was a tough transition for Lasalle, he said, especially as a young man. He had enlisted at 19 in 1987. “When I graduated high school, I found there weren’t really any opportunities that I was interested in the area. So I enlisted,” he said. “You are going into the military as a kid, so they are kind of like adoptive parents for you. They provide you with everything — meals,
lodging, doctor’s appointments, everything that you need is provided for you.” “You don’t have any help when you are getting out of the service. When you are out, it really is a culture shock to return to the civilian world. You are still really a kid.” He said technology is one of the biggest contrasts between current U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the preInternet world of the early 1990s. Troops now have more accessibility to keep in touch with family, he said, whereas mailed letters from home and the occasional phone call were as much as could be expected by deployed troops during the Gulf War. “It was primitive by comparison to what they have now,” he said. “And it wasn’t that long ago, you know? The technology has significantly changed so much from even just in the last 10 and 15 years.” LaSalle served four years in the Air Force before returning to the Teche Area, where he has continued public service as a law enforcement officer in Iberia Parish and now in Lafayette.
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The Daily Iberian / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / page 9
salute to the veterans
page 10 / Thursday, February 24, 2011 / The Daily Iberian Profile 2011 / Celebrating Our Community
Sub-hunter Forrest flew Atlantic BY KARMA CHAMPAGNE THE DAILY IBERIAN
LEE BALL / THE DAILY IBERIAN
Albert ‘Bud’ Forrest portraying Cmdr. Harbison in IPAL’s production of the play ‘South Pacific.’
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Capt. Abert ‘Bud’ Forrest flew top secret missions.
etired U.S. Navy Capt. L. Albert “Bud” Forrest speaks humbly and proudly of his 24year tenure while serving his country in the Armed Forces and the challenges he faced as part of anti-submarine naval warfare. As a Navy pilot and member of an elite Navy Anti-submarine Hunter Killer Group, Forrest faced many challenges while piloting multi-engine aircraft on missions to actively detect and track enemy submarines, or destroy them if necessary. SUBMITTED Whether flying missions from a Albert Forrest Sr., ‘Bud’ Forrest’s father, piloted an open cockpit bi-plane. carrier at sea or an onshore air station, any successful anti-submarine warfare mission hinged on a mix of the Naval Air Base in New Iberia. when he speaks of three of his feldependable sensor and weapon techWith less than 1 percent meeting the low high school classmates, who also nology, detailed training, experience qualifications for acceptance in flight went on to become pilots, but never and sometimes even a little luck. school, Forrest considered it an honor returned home. He also thinks about Forrest said every carrier landing to earn his Navy Wings and eventual- the pilots of the three aircraft of his always presented the same thrill and ly become part of a Navy Antisister squadron who did not survive. adrenaline rush as the first. Other Submarine Hunter Killer Group. “I was lucky, I was sent to the North than a helicopter, he piloted everyForrest made hundreds of carrier Atlantic and Mediterranean, but my thing from single engine jets to multi- landings during his aviation career classmates were sent to Vietnam. They engine turboprop jets. and earned the Centurion badge in never made it back,” said Forrest. “Yes, there is a ‘legitimate high’ recognition of 100 safe landings made Forrest said the success of each from the time you take off until the on the same ship — the USS Wasp. mission depended on a strong supcarrier landing. It is about being able Although difficult, the daytime carport team who were responsible for to accept the challenge and complete rier landing had become more routine, such things as maintenance of the the task. There is no ride at Six Flags Forrest said. But the night landings aircraft, fuel and the catapult. Over Texas that in any way can com- were always an enormous challenge. “Part of our successful effort was pares to this,” said Forrest. “I can “You have no visual reference at due to the support group of as many remember my first landing and night other than the lights on the as 250 personnel. If any one of those thinking how am I going to get this ship,” said Forrest. 250 did not do their job, anything aircraft on this 800-foot deck.” The 72-year-old faced difficult chalcould happen,” Forrest said. Each time Forrest entered the cock- lenges in his career, but one in particAfter completing flight training in pit, he knew he and his co-pilot were ular put his experience and training New Iberia, Forrest ended up with a in command of the aircraft, but there to the ultimate test. He remembers bonus. He met and married Adele was still the uncertainty of his own vividly the night his aircraft had a Simon of New Iberia, raised three childestiny if the mission would end in a complete hydraulic failure while flydren and now has four grandchildren. face-off with an enemy submarine. ing over the Atlantic Ocean. After active duty, he earned his law “The enemy knew we could hurt “This was one of my most chaldegree Tulane Law School and them as badly as they could hurt us, so lenging moments. It was dark, rainy, remained in the Naval Air Reserve neither of us wanted to strike the first there was no place to go and there before retiring. Forrest is still an blow, until the bell rang,” said Forrest. was no time to call Mama for help. It active licensed pilot. That love of flyThe New Iberia resident served on was a one-shot deal to get the aircraft ing extended to a third generation, as the USS Essex, USS Antietam, USS back aboard the ship again,” he said. his son, the late Larry Forrest, was a Lexington and spent two years aboard “But we are trained to handle situacommercial airline pilot. the USS Wasp in the North Atlantic. tions like this.” Forrest said he is extremely proud Navy anti-submarine warfare played Forrest had wanted to be a pilot and grateful to have had the opportuan important role in defending the since he was 10 The St. Paul, Minn., nity to serve his country and is country against the 600 Russian subnative obviously was influenced by thankful to all of the other men and marines that posed a threat during his father, L. Albert Forrest Sr., who women who served. the impasse of the Cold War. was a U.S. Army Signal Corps pilot “I salute all of them,” said Forrest. “Our missions were highly special- and flew an open cockpit airplane. Forrest will play a part true to his ized and top secret,” said Forrest. “As a pilot, I grew up rapidly and character when he performs in full Growing up in the day of the draft, knew I had to become extremely self- uniform in the Iberia Performing Forrest had volunteered for the Navy reliant. I learned quickly to have a lot Arts League March 25 opening perand then applied for Navy flight of respect for my aircraft,” he said. formance of the legendary Broadway school. He completed his training at Forrest is overcome with emotion musical hit, “South Pacific.”
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