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|Antique Alley event to honor POWs, soldiers still missing in action|
Local veteran Troyce Carter wears a copper bracelet every day. The name of a fellow soldier, missing from the Vietnam War, is engraved on the bracelet.
SFC Donald Sparks is the name of that soldier. He has been MIA since 1969. Sparks' bracelet is the sixth Carter has worn. He has returned five other bracelets after those soldiers' remains were found.
People began wearing the POW-MIA bracelets in the early 1970s as a way to remember American prisoners of war and those missing in action.
For decades, Carter has kept the 80,000 American soldiers still missing in action from wars the United States has fought in his thoughts and prayers.
This year, he wanted to do more to honor those American soldiers.
On Friday, Sept. 19, Carter will join a host of other veterans, local representatives, military organizations and the public in a "Day of Remembrance" to honor POWs and soldiers who are still missing in action.
It will be the first time such an event has been held in West Monroe, Carter said.
Every year, the country recognizes the third Friday in September as the national POW/MIA Remembrance day.
Carter helped organize the local event, along with the Antique Alley Association in West Monroe and local veterans and military groups.
It will be held at Antique Alley on Trenton Street from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday.
On Tuesday, Carter and others began placing U.S. flags and the official POW/MIA black flags throughout Antique Alley.
Carter vividly remembers a similar event that he witnessed years earlier in Ruston.
"About four years ago, I was going to Barksdale (Air Force Base) when I heard that some of the kids from Louisiana Tech had a POW ceremony at the courthouse," Carter explained. "I pulled in there and there was a guy in a Vietnam uniform in a cage. That got to me. I'm a multi-tour Vietnam vet. I've been wearing this bracelet (with Donald Sparks name) for 25 years. If they ever return his body, I will send the bracelet to his family. I've sent five so far."
From 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday a reproduction of a POW cage will stand at Antique Alley to symbolize the soldiers who were held captive.
"We're still on the line of whether we're going to put someone in there," Carter said. "Some of the guys might not take it well."
The focus of the POW/MIA event is to honor POW/MIAs from the various wars the country has fought. Carter expects some local POWs will be among the people attending Friday's event.
Most POWS don't want others to know they were war prisoners, Carter said. The group originally wanted to present the community's former POWs with a medal and a certificate. To respect the POWs wishes to remain anonymous, they will be recognized but not by their names, Carter said.
They will be recognized during a ceremony at 11 a.m. during Friday's event.
Speakers will be featured during the day, including state Rep. Kay Kellogg Katz. The speakers will conclude around 11:45 a.m. Following the speakers, the West Monroe Junior ROTC will perform in the missing man formation.
"We hope people will come out and honor our POW/MIAs, and honor our military," Carter said. "They deserve to be honored. We've got a great group of young men and women (serving in the U.S. military). These kids today, they are fantastic. Veterans have to stand up and promote the veterans. Without a veteran you wouldn't have a job."