Hometown Heroes - SWLA Veterans Association

Helping younger veterans
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 3:48 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Younger veterans who served in recent wars don’t necessarily migrate to organizations like the VFW or American Legion. A few years ago, one vet decided a change was needed.

“When I got off active duty, I saw a lack of diversity and age range in American Legions and VFWs,” said Bubba Viator, who served in the Navy and had tours in the Middle East and South America. “So we decided to become an active 501c to enhance those groups, give other people resources, and try to not change those organizations, but bring new life to them.”

And that’s how the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Association got started. Viator, John Mekins and David Soileau needed an avenue to connect.

“I’m a fan of you don’t know, what you don’t know,” said Soileau, a Marine who served in Afghanistan and Korea. “So problems can come to light in your own life and those around you. They can be as simple as conversation, like hanging out. We can learn a lot about ourselves and pass along lessons we’ve learned to others. Just subtly and without realizing it sometimes.”

“It’s about the conversations and being able to have a conversation where someone can relate to you,” said Mekins, who served on Navy subs. “If you need some help, maybe you find it. Or maybe you’re the answer for someone else. And why not you come down and provide an answer for someone else.”

The association not only holds social events, but performs community service projects throughout the year.

“I’ve had people who don’t want to do anything, come and overnight, it changes their mentality,” said Viator. “Now they’re using us for resources. They are calling us, they’re engaged. To me, that makes it all worth it.”

The association doesn’t see itself as competition for the Legion and VFW. They actually encourage their members to join these important lobbying groups.

“Having a common goal to work towards and doing that together,” said Soileau. “That network effect of friendship and brotherhood.”

The SWLA Veterans Association has a Facebook page to keep its members informed of upcoming events.

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