Veterans share stories of loss

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

VIETNAM VETERANS: From left, Henry Lilly and David Redman both served in the Army and witnessed the deaths of many of their comrades during the Vietnam War.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

VIETNAM VETERANS: From left, Henry Lilly and David Redman both served in the Army and witnessed the deaths of many of their comrades during the Vietnam War.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“We cherish too, the poppy red that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.” –– Moina Michael.

On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, designated May 30 Decoration Day, Memorial’s Day’s original name, for “the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” the U.S. Memorial Day website states.
Since 1971, with the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971, Memorial Day is observed by almost every state on the last Monday in May.
For many of the nation’s veterans, remembering those they’ve lost is an almost daily and painful occurrence.
Three of Pearl River County’s veterans served their country in combat and each one watched as some of their fellow soldiers fall on the battlefield.

World War II

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James Livaudais, 99, is proud of his service. He was drafted in March of 1942 and became a member of the Army’s first Airborne forces.
During his service, Livaudais said he witnessed the death of at least 20 men.
“I had to be lucky,” he said. “In Normandy, the Germans had a weapon you could hear fire and land at the same time. Shrapnel is what killed a lot of people.”
On January 5, 1945, Livaudais said he remembered meeting an 18-year-old boy who asked Livaudais what to do during combat.
“I told him when the shells start flying to get on the ground,” he said. “The next thing a piece of shrapnel hit him and blew him to pieces. That’s cruel, just awful. It’s awful to think how many thousands of young men lost their lives.”
Livaudais spoke of his time spent in Belgium when temperatures dropped to 35 degrees below zero and included heavy snowfall.
If a fellow soldier was wounded, they couldn’t stay by his side, he said. Additionally, the snow was falling so quickly that it would cover his body making it impossible for medics to find them.
“We put his bayonet on his rifle and put his helmet on top of that,” Livaudais said. “That way the medic would find him. We would holler ‘medic’ until the medic heard it.”
Livaudais said soldiers were treated “great back in those days.”
“Everyone was poor, good, red-blooded people,” he said. “I don’t think this country can win another. There are too many people not like we were back in those days. The world is changing and back then, people really appreciated what you did. I’m happy to still be alive after all this. It’s unbelievable what a guy can go through and make it. There’s no atheist in a foxhole. If you know don’t how to pray, you learn how to pray.”


Dennis Redman served in the U.S. Army’s intelligence special forces from 1960 to 1963. He was stationed with the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Laos before the Vietnam War became official.
“They put us by the border and our job was to call in strike missions,” he said. “One night on patrol I lost five of my guys. We walked into an ambush.”
There were 12 men altogether and Redman said he brought the rest of them back.
Redman was “under fire” two more times when his base camp underwent a mortar attack, he said.
“Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices that all of the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Redman said. “I remember them all and thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Before he could complete high school, Henry Lilly was drafted into the Army in 1968. He was not yet 18-years-old.
“I went in as a boy and the experience made me a man,” Lilly said. “You grow up quick and it changes your whole outlook on life.”
Just two months after Lilly and his childhood friend were drafted, Lilly watched “the top of his friend’s head get blown off.”
While overseas, Lilly said he only thought about surviving and coming home.
However, when he finally came home, veterans were treated like outcasts, he said.
“Right now it’s improving, but there’s a lot more to be done,” he said. “So many lost their lives. For 15 years I had flashbacks and couldn’t get out of my house. We need to think about the veterans and I wish the government would do more for them.”