"Dear Mr. Bentley, Well I am in the trenches at last. You would think at times there was no war, and then all at once it sounds like hell has broken loose."
Donaldsonville American Legion, VFW, and citizens showed their support on Sunday, November 11 for veterans of the United States military at Louisiana Square.
But in honor of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, one private in particular, Mr. Bennett Babin, was commemorated.
Before the program began Jay Lemann and Regina Mistretta saw that all who attended had a poppy pinned on their clothes to symbolize Armistice Day, or the end of WWI.
Desiree Nailer performed a beautiful, powerful rendition of the National Anthem. This was followed by an opening prayer.
Next, Jay Lemann read the history of the poppy and the poem that the tradition stems from "In Flanders Fields," written by John McCrae during WWI and published in 1918.
The story goes that the Canadians held off the Germans for 17 days of intense fighting, and during the battle on May 2, 1915 McCrae's close friend Alexis Helmer was killed. McCrae wrote the poem the next day on the back of an ambulance. Poppies grew on top of men's graves.
"Serving in the military and serving in combat, it's certainly a day that we cherish, and it's certainly wonderful to see the communities that still come out and support veterans on Veteran's Day," Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said. "And today I understand that the Donaldsonville VFW is going to honor Mr. Bennett who died in WWI."
"This is probably the first ceremony of this kind that's ever been held here in Donaldsonville," American Legion Commander Lawrence Landry said.
After Lemann read "In Flanders Fields," John Beck made a presentation of letters written by Private Babin to the (then) editor of The Donaldsonville Chief, presumably founding editor Linden E. Bentley.
"Arrived safely in this beautiful, sunny country," the first letter reads. "Had a grand trip over and enjoyed it very much. Count on us to do our part." That was dated March 26, 1918.
On June 18, 1918 he wrote The Chief again: "Dear Mr. Bentley, Well I am in the trenches at last. You would think at times there was no war, and then all at once it sounds like hell has broken loose. The cannons roar and you can hear the shells overhead whistling by, and would think that everyone would fall and burst right next to you . . . We get our daily mail in the trenches and and it surely makes a fellow feel good to get news from home."
Beck also read some original poetry, which he gave to the attending Babin family. The family was also presented with the death certificate of Private Bennett Babin.
Michael Babin, a great-nephew of Private Babin, is currently an actor based in California and was meeting some relatives in Donaldsonville for the first time. He recently visited his great uncle's grave in France. He shared a photo that was taken.
"I took that picture," he said. "I was able to visit the grave about a month and a half ago. The letters were very touching and made me smile. It's the first time I've seen his face."
Click here for a full photo gallery from the ceremony at Louisiana Square in Donaldsonville.