Acadia Chapter LSDAR to honor veterans’ organizations at ‘United We Stand’ program
Acadia Chapter LSDAR has chosen to honor Acadia Parish Veterans’ Organizations at the third annual
“United We Stand” Veterans’ Day Program on Sunday November 9 beginning at 2 p.m. and lasting for one hour. The event will once again take place at Crowley’s Rice Theatre followed by a reception at City Hall. The Murray J. Reed American Legion Post 371 in Iota is the first honored veterans’ organization, which will be recognized that day by the Acadia Chapter.
The organization was established at a meeting, which was held at the home of John Hershell Reed in late October 1968. Officers elected at the meeting were John H. Reed, Commander and B.A. Ritter, Adjutant. Other officers were elected at a later meeting. A Ladies’ Auxiliary Unit was also formed. Although a Sons of the American Legion Squadron was chartered, it soon became inactive.
A membership drive began and many of the new members transferred from Post 15 in Crowley. When the Iota post received its Charter January 28, 1969, it listed 32 names. Of those 32, only six survived today: Paul Doucet, B.A. Ritter, Raleight J. Miller, Rodney G. Miller, Richard O. Patin, and James H. Miller. The date to become a Charter Member was extended to Veterans’ Day November 11, 1969, lists 79 names as incorporators.
Listed as Charter Members of the new post were J.H. Reed, Paul Doucet, Morris J. Roy, B. A. Ritter, Grant Fisher, Raleigh J. Miller, Melvin J. Reed, Morgan S. Hebert, Milton H. Mier, Gilton J. Hebert, Ernest E. Martin, Joseph J. Burton, Gilton J. LeJeune, Robert B. LeJeune, Curley D. Reed, Murphy Hebert, Jimmie McNeal, Willard P. Reed, Joseph R.F. Andrepont, and Merlyn G. Reed. Also, Rodney G. Miller, James L. Doucet, Floyd L. Henderson, Richard O. Patin, Francis L. LeJeune, Charles L. Sensat, Larry J. LeJeune, F.N. Fabacher, Joe B. Dawson, Alvin L. Hebert, Shelton S. LeJeune, and James H. Miller.
One of the highest honors bestowed upon an American veteran is that of having a Veterans’ organization take his name for the name of their post. The name Murray J. Reed Sr. was selected as the Post name and the number assigned to the post was 371. Murray Joseph Reed was born in Iota November 24, 1917 and died September 15, 1968. Reed served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Later, he moved to Patterson, where he was very active in American Legion Post 242 there. Reed also was a charter member of the Volture 1525 of St. Mary Parish 40 and 8, which is an elite group of honored legionnaires. The main speaker at this event, Harry Roy of Patterson Post 242, described Reed as “a little man of statue and a great man of spirit.” Over 100 legionnaires, auxiliary members and friends were on hand to view the installation of officers by Department Commander Dalton Comeaux on January 29, 1969.
Officers were: J.H. Reed, Commander; Paul Doucet, First Vice Commander; Morris J. Roy, Second Vice commander; B.A. Ritter, Adjutant; Grant Fisher, Sergeant-at-Arms; Raleigh Miller, Finance Officers; Melvin J. Reed, Historian, and F.N. Fabacher, Chaplain. Seventh District Commander presented the Post charter to Commander John H. Reed.
The Louisiana Department By’laws require that Posts elect officers in May each year, the month before the Department Convention, so the post held another election in May 1969. The following officers were elected: Commander, J.H. Reed; First Vice Commander, Paul Doucet; Second Vice Commander, M.J. Roy; Adjutant, B.A. Ritter; Finance Officer, Raleight Miller; Color Bearer, Joe Dawson; Chaplain, F.N. Fabacher; Color Bearer, Leroy Doucet; Historian Melvin Reed; Sergeant-at-arms, Grant Fisher. Past Department Commander Arthur Vaillon from Port Allen installed officers on July 29, 1969.
The Post held its meetings in the Knights of Columbus Home in Iota until a building was purchased. Weekly bingo games were also held in the K.C. Hall. Dances and other activities were held either in the K.C. Home or at the St. Francis School Gym.
In July 1972, the Murray J. Reed Post 371 was finally able to purchase a building in Iota on July 25, 1972. Built in 1914, the building at 109 Duson Avenue had been Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Bourgeois; Red and White Store, a general merchandise store. When the Bourgeois couple retired, Mr. Bourgeois, a very devoted Legionnaire, offered the building to the Post at a reasonable price, which he financed.
Work began immediately to convert the building from a store to the Post home. Over the years, remodeling has improved the post home. Since members barbecue to sell as fundraisers every other week, it was important that they have proper facilities for food preparation. They built a patio and kitchen to the main building with a screened barbecue cooking area. The kitchen meets Acadia Parish Health Unit standards and the Post has a permit to sell food. 2007 and 2008 saw more improvements made to the building. A bandstand was built and the Bar area was carpeted. The Mardi Gras mural on the front of the building was restored. Work on the structure is ongoing.
The Murray J. Reed Post 371 is an active force in the community of Iota and in Acadia Parish as well. The Post participates in many American Legion programs, including Louisiana Boys’ State, School Awards, such as the presentation of certificates and monetary awards to students, and the selection of Educator of the Year. The Post provides Funeral Honors for deceased veterans when requested. Post 371 also furnishes a Firing Squad or Memorial Day services in Mowata and Maxie Cemeteries. Veterans’ gravesites in St. Joseph, Iota, St. Jules and Reed Cemeteries are decorated with U.S. Flags for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Boy Scout Troop 64 helps decorate over 200 veterans’ graves in St. Joseph Cemetery. Appropriate services are conducted in observance of those days.
By working with the National Guard and Marine Crops Reserve Unit in Lafayette, the Post has been able to have displays of military equipment in Iota on different occasions.
Through the efforts of then Vice Commander Patrick S. Miller Sr., Ardoin Memorials of Eunice donated a headstone depicting the flag raising on Iwo Jima to the Post, and it was installed near the Veterans’ Memorial in St. Joseph Cemetery, Iota.
The Sons of the American Legion Squadron 371 has been reactivated due to the efforts of the late Milton Fontenot of Jennings, and there are now 17 members. Officers of this group include Charles LeJeune, Commander; Patrick S. Miller, First Vice Commander; John Miller, Second Vice Commander; Dwayne Clark, Adjutant; Nathan J. Cormier, Finance Officer; Phillip Hebert, Sr., Sgt-At-Arms, and Phillip Hebert Jr., Chaplain.
Fund-raisers to benefit the legionnaire’s projects and maintenance keep members busy. They sell barbecue every other week, call 779-3472 for information, hold a bingo in November and December, and sponsor a raffle in December. The members meet regularly every Fourth Tuesday of the month at the Duson Avenue Post home. A supper follows the meeting.
Current officers of the Post 371 who will serve until June 2009 are: Post commander, Patrick S. Miller Sr.; First Vice Commander, Kenneth Myers; Second Vice Commander, Connie LeJeune; Adjutant, Berchmans Ritter; Chaplain, Brandon LeDoux; Service Officer, Paul Doucet; Judge Advocate, Chester Doucet; and Sgt-at-Arms, Lorne Quebedaux.
Two members of Post 371 are female veterans. They are Shani Henry and Brenda Reagan.
According to Acadia Chapter’s Service to Veterans’ Chairman, Mrs. Barbara de la Houssaye of Crowley, the DAR members are proud to honor this organization of dedicated and patriotic men and women of the Murray J. Reed Post 371 in Iota, Louisiana at the “United We Stand” Veterans’ Day Program.