Earlier this year, I submitted a story about something 'in our own back yard': the Atchafalaya Welcome Center at the Butte la Rose exit on I-10.  The reason I am calling this series of posts 'in our own back yard' it to bring to light some things right here in Acadiana that we might not take advantage of because we are so used to seeing them.

Today's example is Veteran's Park.  Shannon surprised me for lunch a few weeks ago (we would rarely get to eat lunch together because of our work arrangements) by bringing me to Palon's Mexican Hot Dog Stand on Verot School Road.  We got our food 'to go', and then she asked "where's the closest park?"

Veteran's Park happened to be the first one that came to mind.  On Feu Follet, right next to Big Boys Toys and Hobbies, Veteran's Park features covered picnic tables, a pier overlooking a pond, restrooms, a playground and plenty of grassy areas with shade.

It also features memorials honoring the brave men and women who have served our armed forces:  A Vietnam Memorial, a Korean War Memorial, a memorial to honor the Royal Order of Purple Heart recipients, and a memorial recognizing each of the 5 branches of the United States Military.

The park, maintained through cooperation between the Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Vietnam Veterans of American (VVA), Acadiana Chapter (Hill 141), has served as the setting for many events, including Memorial Day ceremonies, Veterans' Day ceremonies, remembrance services, birthday parties, anniversary parties, and group get-togethers.

According to Charles Norman (President of the local VVA Chapter) "we have seen many ceremonies and activities in this park, but the sight that warms my heart the most is when I see a father and son fishing together at the pond, or a mother with her children, feeding the ducks.  It's those 'little things' that I see.... it's those little things all adding up to help the child grow into a caring, responsible adult."

Many of the veterans still get emotional when they see people reading the monuments, maybe thinking of a parent or loved one who served.  "It is important that people learn about what many of the veterans went through" Norman says.  "Not just the horrors of war, but what happened to them when they returned.  Veterans, whether involved in battle or not, are today's heroes.  10% of today's Americans volunteer to join the Armed Forces to protect the other 90%.  Just by stepping up, they become heroes.  Most of our service members don't want to go to war; they are simply following orders.  Remember this:  no American soldier has ever started a war:  it's politicians who start wars, we just follow orders.  We go in and fight for what we hope is right.  We fight for freedom."

Take time to visit Veteran's Park, and bring the kids.  It is right there, in our own back yard!