The inaugural American Legion Post #69 World War II Tribute Tour took Acadiana-area WWII veterans to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

WWII veterans aboard the Tribute Tour bus (Staff Photo)

Daniel J. Bentley, Commander of American Legion Post 69 spearheaded the operation along with Karen Fontenot (Vietnam Veteran).

It was a privilege to help make this event happen.  We had a bus full of members of the greatest generation ever, and escorting them to visit the museum was an honor.  We hope to make this a quarterly event, until all remaining WWII veterans in Acadiana have visited the museum.  - Daniel J. Bentley, Commander.

In speaking with officials at the National WWII Museum today, Bentley made the realization that no group of WWII veterans had ever visited the museum via a program like the Tribute Tour.  So, history was made today!

WWII Veterans awaiting departure on the Tribute Tour (Staff Photo)

Upon return from the trip, several of the veterans were in awe of the number of cars in the parking lot at the Post, as dozens of people had shown up for the reception.

Several of the chaperones today were veterans, including some females (and the only reason I point that out is because several people still have a "male" figure in their head when the word "veteran" comes up; I want to make certain that people remember that hundred of thousands of women have served this country!).

I had the honor of performing the duties of chaperone for Kenneth LaFleur, a native of Ville Platte.  Mr. LaFleur joined the Army Air Corps, and served our country as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator.

B-24 Liberator, similar to the aircraft that Dr. LaFleur served on in WWII (Facebook)

Kenneth LaFleur left Louisiana at 18, and after receiving training in Santa Anna, Fresno, Phoenix and, finally, Denver, he was off to war in the Pacific.

Kenneth LaFleur (Staff Photo)

Most of his 43 missions, some of them as long as 17 hours, originated from Clark Field on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Dr. Kenneth LaFleur (2nd from left) along with other Acadiana WWII veterans at the National WWII Museum (Staff Photo)

I know that I didn't get the full details of his experiences during the war; I also know that there are some details I probably don't want to know.

Upon his return to the United States after the war, Kenneth LaFleur went on to become a successful dentist in Lafayette.

One of the things that I took away from today's event was this:  these men are very proud of their service to their country, while at the same time remain very humble.  Phrases like "we were just doing what we needed to do" or "you would have done the same thing in my situation" were heard a few times today.

Veterans at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. American Legion Post #69 Commander Daniel J. Bentley is on the far right, in the pea coat. (Staff Photo)

The next Tribute Tour is scheduled for February.  Each busload of veterans costs around $2,500 to make the trip to New Orleans, so the American Legion post is seeking donors to make the next trip possible.  A tax-deductible donation of that amount from a corporation would be a drop in the bucket, so-to-speak.  I am hoping that there are several buses on the next trip.

If you would like to make a donation to help fund the Tribute Tours, contact American Legion Post 69 at (337) 233-3296, John Rougeau at (337) 371-5434, or email Karen Fontenot

(Facebook, American Legion)