January 17, 2014
I was elated to hear that the marker on the old oak tree, transformed by chain saw artist Burt Fleming into the Freedom Eagle, has been re-discovered by a new generation of Zachary citizens.
The marker was dedicated to the memory of those “WHO FOUGHT DURING THE WORLD WAR”. My father was a U. S. Navy veteran of World War II, and like most boys growing up in the 1960’s, I was raised on old black-and-white movies and tales of heroism from that conflict. Naturally, I assumed the marker was there to honor that generation of fighting men.
It was my grandfather, John L. Kennedy, Sr., who set me straight on the oak tree marker. He explained that the marker commemorated an earlier cohort of patriot citizens, the one who had gone “over there” to fight the war to end all wars, to make America safe for democracy. Like my father, my grandfather had served in the Navy. My great-uncle Preston went to France with General Pershing and the U. S. Army. With other young men from the northern end of the Parish, they departed for the battlefields of Europe from the same depot that sits hard by the now unused railroad that brought Zachary into being less than 30 years earlier.
As a boy, I would walk the short distance down High Street from the Zachary High School campus to Kennedy’s Store (where Delta Finance is today). I passed under the shadow of the largest structure in town, the massive gray water tower, and under the limbs of the gracious oak. At its base was the curious marker that caught the attention of a curious ten-year old.
We are blessed to live in a community that honors those who have served to make possible the freedoms and privileges of living in the greatest country in the history of the world. That old, worn marker reminds us that this tradition of tribute has existed in our town always, and it is our duty to see that it continues forever more.