JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - World War II veterans are in their 80's and 90's and they are passing on in great numbers. One, greatly admired in Southwest Louisiana, was Judge Bernard Marcantel of Jennings who died last week. He's remembered for his service in the military and beyond.
Family and friends gathered to remember and pay tribute to Marcantel, a man whose life of public service included becoming district attorney of Allen and Jeff Davis Parishes which formerly comprised the 31st Judicial District.
Former Jennings mayor Greg Marcantel is his son.
"At the time that he was elected in 1953 he was the youngest person ever elected district attorney in Louisiana. He was 29 years old," said Marcantel.
It was a position of public trust Marcantel held dear, as is reflected in a television interview from 2014.
"The smallest case to me was important. And that was always my philosophy, that if you took care of the little things the big things would take care of themselves," said Marcantel in 2014.
And that ideal of serving others was perhaps born when he served in the Army in World War II in the dead of winter at the Battle of the Bulge.
"They were not at D Day but followed immediately after D Day. One of the things he did tell us he was very proud of, was that it was his unit that actually met the Soviet unit at the river in Germany when they separated and began the last few months of the war. He never bragged about it , it was just what they did," said the younger Marcantel.
Darrell Landry, a Vietnam Vet, appreciates what Marcantel and the others gave.
"We are losing the very, very last the youngest people that went in. We have one or two members left that are WW2 Veterans in our post. They were the great generation to get out there and give their all and some of them gave everything they had and didn't come back," said Landry.
And so, as they bid farewell to Judge Marcantel it's a reminder how fast the WWII soldiers are dwindling in numbers.
"Any acknowledgment or any tribute we can give them they deserve it before they pass on," said Landry.
"What those men sacrificed and accomplished for us no words can express. If you know a World War II Vet, thank them," said Marcantel.
Marcantel says his dad did what he was called to do and taught his children life was to be lived in service.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII only 558,000 were still alive in 2017.