News Release
November 25, 2019
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Carly Cumpton
Giving Thanks to Our Veterans Event Honors Veterans in Local Community
Leesville, LA -- First United Methodist Church in Leesville held a community luncheon on Wednesday, November 20 to honor local veterans. Giving Thanks to Our Veterans was the theme of this month’s TLC Luncheon, which is part of the church’s community outreach programming. Over 80 people attended the luncheon, which included members of the church, local community members, soldiers currently stationed at Fort Polk, and veterans and their families covering an array of the five armed service branches.

The event included a potluck lunch served by members of the church, a poem read by retired Army Colonel Ron Thompson of the Baton Rouge area, remarks from retired Sergeant Major of the Army, Julius “Bill” William Gates, and recognition of service members in attendance.

Anne Causey, who coordinates the monthly luncheon, introduced Mr. Gates with a summary of his extensive career with the Army. Gates entered the Army in 1958, attending initial training at Fort Jackson, SC. During his service, Gates served three tours in Germany, two combat tours in Vietnam, and a tour in Korea. His stateside assignments include – but are not limited to – duty with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY and the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA. Gates served in numerous non-commissioned officer leadership positions during his career.

On July 1, 1987, Gates was sworn in as the eighth Sergeant Major of the Army, where he served until his term ended in June 1991. He has received countless awards, including Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and the Purple Heart. Currently, Gates works for the Army Research Institute at the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group (JRTC OPS GRP) and can be seen out in the field showing outside agencies the training conducted at the JRTC.

During his speech, Gates remarked that there are over 18 million veterans currently living in the United States, with the state of Louisiana considered home to almost 40,000 veterans. As part of his remarks, Gates shared with the audience that he felt simply saying “thank you” did not fully express the gratitude felt towards those who have served. He stated, “We owe our veterans a debt that can never be paid, so today my fellow Americans, instead of saying thank you, would you please stand and give a salute to our veterans?” 

In addition to asking attendees to give a salute in recognition of the many sacrifices made by veterans, he requested people talk to veterans about their service. “They can provide you with information on what they experienced during combat operations that is not on record in our historical archives.”

He also remarked on the dedication, patriotism, and commitment of soldiers, sharing about his experience visiting soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center. There he met soldiers who, despite extensive injuries and amputations, could not wait to get back to their unit.
The program portion of the luncheon ended with the recognition of those who have served. Veterans were asked to stand and be recognized during the playing of their branch’s anthem. In addition to veterans, attendees with spouses or children in the military stood in honor of their loved ones.

During the luncheon, many attendees mentioned how grateful they were for the opportunity to thank local soldiers and connect with veterans in the community.

Mike Reese, Fort Polk Progress Chairman, was in attendance and remarked “With such close ties to the military, it is a welcomed sight to see our community organizing events that further connect us with those who serve. Our community is significantly influenced by both the retired veterans who have made our area a permanent home and those soldiers who are currently stationed at Fort Polk. I’m proud of our community’s commitment to recognizing their service and sacrifice not only during Veterans Day but year-round.”
Fort Polk Progress is a regional community organization that takes a proactive stance against budget-driven U.S. Army troop reductions by maintaining relationships and partnering with decision makers in Congress, at the Pentagon and at the state level, ensuring that the most up to date information concerning Fort Polk and the surrounding communities is used in decisions concerning the base. In addition, Fort Polk Progress actively markets the base to the military as the most cost effective place to provide soldiers with the best training possible and strives to help ensure the best possible quality of life for soldiers, civilians and their families. Most recently, Fort Polk Progress has spear-headed an Education Initiative, which acknowledges exceptional educational achievements in the region and pursues continued excellence in education for military families throughout the region. 

For more information about Fort Polk Progress visit us on the  web , like us on  Facebook  and follow us on  Twitter .