The entire community came together in support of its veterans, and they found a permanent way to say thanks.
What started out as a dream for folks here in Ponchatoula became a reality on Veterans Day with the Avenue of Flags.
“I was just glad to get home when I got home,” said World War II veteran Marine T.J. Williamson.
Williamson walked the brand new Avenue of Flags Monday, seven decades removed from memories as fresh as yesterday.
“Some people remember where they came from. Some of them don't even know what it all means. I know what it means.”
After years of putting up flagpoles every year, Ponchatoula American Legion Post 47 and the Ancient Order of Hibernians decided to make the flagpoles permanent.
“Each flagpole was purchased by a family, a family member in memory of someone who served in the military or was an old citizen of the city of Ponchatoula as well,” said mayor Robert Zabbia.
“I said we got to do this, so we put our heads together and we did it,” said project chairman Bruce Caliva.
Now 58 identical flags line the avenue, a red, white and blue salute to very different veterans of very different times.
“Come here to honor them. We got our honor in our hearts, and we keep these guys in our hearts too,” said Vietnam veteran Billy Barnes.
“Seeing this now, I am glad that they got them up. It's about time,” said Vietnam veteran Mike DiPadova.
Sitting quietly near the avenue is the grave of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Raymond Mike Clausen, who braved both enemy fire and a mine field to save his fellow Marines 40 years ago.
”He's probably happy as H-E-L-L. I don’t cuss,” said Clausen’s wife Lois.
Vietnam helicopter pilot Philip Monteleone flew the Avenue of Flags in salute to Mike and all veterans.
It was a nod to the past and hope for the future.
“Here we have the freedom and the love and the country. Everybody is going to stick together, and we are going to get through a lot of this mess,” said the wife of a veteran, Sharon Schilling.
And with flags flying, we know just who to thank