WWII soldier among heroes who 'took the call of duty'

Fallen soldier honored more than 60 years after death
Private First Class Elroy LeJeune
Private First Class Elroy LeJeune

JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (KPLC) - As the nation paused to remember the men and women killed while defending freedom a ceremony honored Jeff Davis Parish native Elroy LeJeune, 25, an Army private who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge on January 16, 1945.

Family, friends and loved ones gathered at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Iota to remember the life taken too soon.

"We lost a great guy. Those are the words that are felt by 416,000 families across the United States describing soldiers who lost their lives defending our country during World War II," said Mike LeJeune, Private LeJeune's nephew.

The crowd was truly among heroes. Several veterans of past and current wars are on hand, including several survivors of the Battle of the Bulge.

Guest speaker J. David Bailey, national president of the Battle of the Bulge, told the crowd they were among heroes.

"We didn't join the service for glory. Not for honor. Not for a lasting tribute. We joined because our country needed us. The world needed us. And we ended up helping save the world," said Bailey.

Nearly 70 years after his death, Private LeJeune's nephew John Semmes made right an oversight by the U.S. Army. After his death Private LeJeune's family never received the Gold Star Lapel Pins - recognizing they lost a loved one in combat.

"It took some work but I managed to get vintage WWII Gold Star Pins for the family. It means a lot to us because when you lose a loved one in war you want to at least know the government is recognizing the death. Somehow it just fell through the cracks and I thought I would rectify it," said Semmes.

Of the 180 men in PFC LeJeune's company 123 of them also never made it home from WWII. They too were also recognized during a graveside ceremony with a cross and American Flag.

The graveside ceremony also included the raising of the flag to Taps, a wreath laying ceremony and "Farewell to Warrior Ceremony."

As bagpipes played in the background family members laid poppies on his Private LeJeune's grave - a touching tribute to his fellow soldiers.

"It's phenomenal. Look at the community - almost everybody in the community is here to remember a forgotten soldier. It's beautiful," said William Bader, Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.

Private LeJeune never married or had children, but has many proud nieces and nephews. His epitaph on his monument reads, "He was the Sunshine of our Family."

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