The recent acquisition of a farmland tract in Richland Parish represents the most expensive parcel ever in Northeast Louisiana, but not in terms of dollars. In fact, the 50 acre tract was donated to the Federal Government to be used for the final resting place for 35,000 American soldiers who answered the call to defend our great Nation. The National Veterans Cemetery located just south of Rayville, was opened and dedicated just two weeks ago.
Congressman Ralph Abraham, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial affairs, lives only a few miles from this sacred historic site. At the recent dedication service, Congressman Abraham stated that, “Thousands of men and women answered the call to serve our nation in the Military. They sacrificed their time, their treasure and in some case their lives so we can live our lives in freedom.”
Mr. George Franklin, who donated the land for the V.A. Cemetery, enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. Although only seventeen years old and underweight, he convinced the recruiter that he was old enough and big enough to fight the Nazi’s and he proved it. As a ball-turret gunner on the B-17 bomber named “Round Trip,” a young George Franklin became a man, a soldier, and a war hero while completing 35 missions over Germany. Congressman Abraham said, “George faced the Nazis and George defeated the Nazis.” He returned home after the war with six air medals, four battle stars, a presidential citation and a free country to pursue his dream of farming the land he loved dearly.
Upon his return home to Richland Parish he became a leader in the agricultural community, developed and utilized the best cultivation and conservation practices, and used the same “can do” attitude he had in the war to acquire hundreds of acres of quality farmland. The day Mr. Franklin heard that the Veterans Administration was looking for a cemetery site, he called his son Fred at 10:30 at night and said he was going to donate his land to the V.A. for the cemetery. Fred knew his dad was ready to “sign-up” once again to serve his country.
It has taken several years to complete this final resting place for 35,000 of our deserving veterans; but it all began over seventy years ago when a young man, George Franklin, took an oath to defend our nation. He never quit serving and even now through his generous donation other veterans for generations will have a final resting place with honor and solitude.