Wreaths Across America slated for 11 a.m. Saturday

Published 5:36 am Friday, December 16, 2016

On Saturday morning, at the graves of American servicemen all across the nation, citizens will gather to place wreaths commemorating their service as part of the Wreaths Across America event.

For the sixth year in a row, Bogalusa residents will be among that number. The annual program is organized by Emma Dixon, who was inspired to participate after discovering one of her ancestors died in World War I.

“I was reviewing my family history of my grand uncle who was killed in action in WWI in 1918,” she said. “And so when I started researching how people had been honored, I came across the Wreaths Across America program and I signed up to be a volunteer in Bogalusa.

The program is designed to coincide with the wreath-laying ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. That ceremony takes place at noon, so the Bogalusa ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. to account for the time difference.

Dixon said anyone who would like to honor a relative or a friend may bring a wreath on Saturday.

“We can’t ignore those who are already interred at Ponemah and Bogalusa cemeteries,” she said.

Dixon added that she hopes this year’s ceremony will also help the living, too.

“This will help lift the morale. People are very distressed,” she said.

As in years past, there will be concurrent ceremonies at the Bogalusa and Ponemah cemeteries and they will include a display from the Bogalusa Jr. ROTC and members of local veterans’ organizations will also be on hand. The guest speaker will be Isaac Gillard, commander the Crescent City Order of the Purple Heart Foundation.

This year, Dixon said several veterans will be honored. They include Albert Jerome Dean, Normel Keller Sr. and Bogalusa Bronze Star Honorees Thomas Brown and Willie Harris.

Dean was honored with a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal and National Defense Medal along with the Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Silver Rose, Sharpshooter M16, M14 Rifle and Expert M60 Machinegun Award.

Known as Jerome Dean in Bogalusa, he was born Nov. 18, 1947. He was a member of the Central Memorial High School Class of 1965. Dean died Dec. 26, 2015 at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center. Dean remains were carried to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery April 11, 2016.

Keller was a longtime educator in Bogalusa and a Purple Heart Honoree and the city of Bogalusa will designate Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 as Normel Keller Day in the city of Bogalusa with the title, “Normel Keller, A Legend In His Own Time.”

The proclamation for Keller is authored by Bogalusa City Council Vice President Doug Ritchie and signed by Mayor Wendy Perrette. Keller was the teacher to both councilman Ritchie and councilman Teddy Drummond, as well as Dixon, the site coordinator for the local Wreaths Across America program.