FORT POLK, La. (KALB) - When you look at a major institution like Fort Polk, you would think that it has always been there nestled inside the rare rolling hills of the corner pocket of western Down Home Louisiana. The area which functions as a premiere training center for the United States Army doubles as its own functioning city, but it hasn’t always been that way.
The history of Fort Polk goes back 75 years to when World War threatened the American way of life for the second time. It was at that time that 13 year old Olea Haymon and her family made a move they would never forget.
“Army tanks came and knocked down my parent’s home,” said the now elderly Olea Fletcher. “I can still see my mother crying. I see the tears hitting the ground, she had nowhere to go.”
Their family was among the more than 300 who were forced to move to make room for what would be called “Camp Polk.”
Also moved was the Monk family, including the now 99 year old Flaudie Mae. “It was terrible,” said Flaudie Mae Monk Nixon, thinking back to her family’s sacrifice. “But it all worked out for the best. We needed the land to train.”
While the concept of imminent domain isn’t an unusual one, what has happened on post in the last 10 years, is.
In an effort to honor the sacrifice of the displaced families, Fort Polk launched the Heritage Program, an organization that works every day to publicize their stories.
They’ve compiled a website – polkhistory.org that houses thousands of archived photos, documents and a list of surnames from the area according to the 1940’s census information.
In addition to their online efforts, the Heritage Program also maintains more than 20 graveyards around the base where residents who passed prior to Camp Polk lay to rest.
They also host a yearly function where the Heritage Families can come and have a reunion with their former neighbors. This year’s event is set for October 22.
For more information on the Fort Polk Heritage Program go to www.polkhistory.org