Update – here is the story:
I arrived at the American Legion in Marrero and immediately realized this was going to be a huge deal due to the amount of cars there. JJ joked that AM on the phone that he would be the one with the red carnation behind his ear (haha). I immediately recognized him in the front row wearing his white crisp Military Order of the Purple Heart hat. We had not seen each other since the MOPH and I felt honored to be there for him just to watch from the audience. I told him to save me a seat in an email, but meant that as a just a figure of speech. This “gentlemen’s gentlemen” (as his friend Henry Cook refers to him) had saved me a seat. He gets up for me and won’t sit until I’m seated. He looked all dapper with his medals on his jacket and he quickly showed me that one had fallen off. I fussed with it for a while and was afraid to wreck it, then realized it was his French Legion of Honor Medal. He didn’t want me fussing any more an pulled it away and placed it in his coat pocket. Grrrr wish I was able to fix it.
The VA Secretary came over as well as every VIP and a parade of friends to say hello to JJ. He was so kind as to introduce me and say that I was with Soldiers’ Angels to each visitor. This is when I learn that he is supposed to escort Governor Jindal to the ceremony. He did not have his cane with him (I joked that he left it home on purpose so he would need assistance), so I offered to help him to where he was told to go. We walked to the back door, met more people and then were told to go to the front. OK, long walk the other way. Thinking to myself, thank goodness I dressed up for the occasion- phew. We waited out front for Jindal to arrive and at this point my day already seemed surreal. My intent was to just watch JJ get his award, not be a a part of this in any way. During all the introductions outside, JJ was very disappointed when one man did not acknowledge me after he shook his hand. Wow, maybe there was something to chivalry (men – please take note)! The Governor arrived and told JJ how impressive his story was and what an honor it was to meet him. JJ told him the last time he did something like this was with Huey Long. OK – pinch me at this point, what is happening? Now it looks like I’m entering with JJ and the Governor is behind us for this event as the band played and cameras were snapped (I was just supposed to sit and watch). So, in we walked to our seats.
The event proceeded as any military event should; invocation, posting of the colors, the Pledge, and Star Spangled Banner. That stuff never gets old to me, always an honor to be at any ceremony that reminds me how proud I am to be American. After a few VIP’s spoke, Governor Jindal began to speak and about 5 minutes into it, someone fell ill. Out of respect, the event was paused until the ambulance arrived. Governor Jindal did not skip a beat 20 minutes later and picked up where he left off. JJ’s story was read and there is a feeling I can’t explain about how honored I felt to be sitting next to a man with such a courageous military history. Surreal.
Finally, the receiving line was formed and the names of 156 recipients were read. JJ was pretty sure they forgot him and best for last was my theory. Well, it is possible we missed his name being called as we both chatted away. When we saw that the last couple were called, we proceeded to the line and he received his medal in the beautiful royal velvet box. Gosh, I was so proud to be assisting him, but did not want any of this to be about me, this was his time to shine. Certainly, I did not want to be in any pictures, but he kept yanking me and insisting I get in them all – UGH!
After the ceremony, I dropped him at the WWII Museum as this was his day to be a docent. I jumped on the phone and called everyone to tell them about my amazing and unexpected day with my hero friend who has made my life richer. Some things in life are meant to happen and certainly we were meant to know each other. I am blessed.
Sept 4th PM: NOLA.com article is up!
Sept 4th: I’m too tired to do this post justice, so please check back. Thursday, JJ emailed me that he would be receiving his Louisiana Honor Medal on Friday. Governor Jindal would be reading his bio during the ceremony and you guessed it – there was absolutely no way in the world I was going to miss it! I told him I would be there! Unexpected things came from my attendance and yous truly had one of those surreal life experiences (I’m blessed to have so many). I promise a good post will be coming. For now, you get pictures! Isn’t he soooo handsome?