I was still in grammar school when Arimise Cheramie, Jr., (Me Mis) was in high school. He often teased me, a sign that he liked you. He was the class clown that everybody loved, always wore a big smile and he would ruffle my hair when he saw me. (Yes, I remember when I had some). He was also kind and seeing me eating a sandwich without a drink, he would slip me a nickel to buy one.
It was wartime and patriotically, he enlisted. His last words to me were: “Tee Roy, (my nickname then), I just joined the Air Force.”
Proudly I shouted: “Shoot one down for me” as he waved goodbye.
That was the last time I saw him. A tail gunner, his plane was shot down over Italy with no survivors. He was Nicholls State University Chef Randy Cheramie’s uncle.
Unfortunately, this was not my last sorrow of WWII. Years later his brother Jimmy Cheramie became my drummer and he too died prematurely leaving a young widow.
Early in the war, across the bayou from us lived Mr. and Mrs. Valmont St. Pierre’s family. Valmont was the brother of Esmire St. Pierre, our neighbor, school bus driver, “maitre du balle” on Saturday night at Rebstock’s Dance Hall, and an honored WWI veteran.
I met their son Nolta visiting his first cousin Pennington St. Pierre, my friend and playmate who was dying of leukemia, another painful childhood memory. “Penny” was Esmire’s son and was loved by the neighborhood kids, but he did not survive his teens.
Nolta was draft age but still a kid at heart. I was about 12, he liked me, we bonded and I became his defacto kid brother.
His brother Richard was more serious and sisters Viola and Glorina were, well, sisters.
He would often take me to the movies at the Star Theater in Galliano, two miles from where we lived. He’d cross the bayou in a flat boat, pick me up and we’d walk to the theater. Other kids followed him, but he was the big brother I never had and I jealously guarded that.
Returning from the movies we’d cross the bayou again and he walk me back to my parents, who trusted him. This was our routine until, to my grief, he was drafted. He did his basic training and was immediately shipped overseas. I never heard from him again.
One day we heard a chilling scream from across the bayou. It was Mrs. St. Pierre, who had just been informed that her son Nolta had been killed in action.
Our neighborhood was stunned and I was devastated! I had lost three friends in less than a year. The screams stopped and a weird and eerie silence fell. All I heard was someone crying. It was me.
The war progressed and Gold Stars appeared in many other Cajun windows. Many came back, but Bertman Pitre had lost a leg, Tiges Martin had lost the use of the right side of his body, and Nolta and Aramise had lost it all.
Over 35 South Lafourche boys died in that war, including American Legion Post 259 namesake, Anthony N. Griffin, one of the first.
In other wars my family lost a relative, Leonce Terrebonne in WWI and I lost a cousin and classmate, class of ’46, Hubert Theriot, in Korea.
Allow me to embellish an old quotation: “Old men contrive wars, and young men pay the cost! That’s how wars are fought, and how they’re won or lost.”
War is brutal and barbaric but inhuman monsters like Hitler always find ways to initiate and pursue it until they symbolically go down in flames.
The cost of World War II? America: $288 billion, 1940 dollars; Armed Forces casualties: 407,000; worldwide fatalities: 75 million. Result? Allied victory and peace … for awhile! Moral? When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
Conclusion: A few more Axis victories and a few more Allied defeats. Without the 407,000 who gave their lives, the outcome might have been different, and generations of Americans would now speak German or Japanese.
Think about it!
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Posted on Tue, March 17, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer