Hometown Heroes - Jeff Nolen

Gulf War veteran
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 8:41 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Retired Army Sgt. Jeff Nolen can laugh now about how he earned his Purple Heart.

“A mortar went off in front of our brigade headquarters,” recalled Nolen. “I just happened to be, and you’ll probably get a kick out of this, I was in the porta-potty on the outside. I was coming out and it went off. I got the full concussion. Basically I kinda got the crap knocked out of me.”

In 2004 and 2005, Nolen was with the 256th Tiger Brigade, helping with the first elections in Bagdad, Iraq.

“We walk around our country all the time, we’re free, we do our thing, we speak our minds, which is great. Somebody pays a price for that.”

Several Southwest Louisiana residents didn’t come back.

“Bill Manuel, Robert Sweeney, Seth Trahan, John Hannan. All these individuals who are the real heroes. They paid the ultimate price. Our community can be extremely proud of the men and women in uniform here.”

Nolen now spends his time serving as the state president of the Sons of the American Revolution. He also helps put together the annual Memorial Day service for the Avenue of Flags.

“Statewide it’s gained a lot of traction, but now it’s gone beyond the state of Louisiana. It really is. We have people approach us asking if they can give the flag of their father, the casket flag, for display. It’s starting to really grow.”

Started about 40 years ago, the Avenue of Flags has gone from just 50 casket flags to almost 1200 now.