SHREVEPORT, La -- Veterans Day honors at Centenary College are extended to a sailor who served with one of our allies in World War II before he immigrated to the U.S.
He also just happens to be a president emeritus of the college, the Rev. Donald Webb.
Webb gave the invocation at Thursday's ceremony in the bandshell on campus. And following the singing of hymns for each U.S. military branch, the Centenary Choir Ensemble sang "Heart of Oak," the song for the Royal Navy.
"That brings tears to my eyes and lifts my old heart. I'm very grateful to them for that,” Webb says in his English accent.
Don has also been given the Louisiana Veterans Honor medal for his service in his homeland, England.
“They included me as a courtesy. It's very touching,” he says.
Don was on a minesweeper in the final year of World War II -- and a few years more.
“Mines, as you know, don't give up," Don said with a bit of dry, British humor. "You have to kill them," Webb said.
Don was the minesweeping officer, in charge of his ship’s dicey duty of clearing away mines that the Germans had laid in the waters of the North Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel.
“One always felt vulnerable,” Webb said.
His work helped clear paths for England’s and the Allies’ battleships that otherwise could be destroyed or severely damaged.
“Germans were just over running everything. Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France. And it looked it looked disastrous for us. They were bombing England heavily,” Webb recalled.
So he left the University of Cambridge during his first year to join the Royal Navy.
“The war was not surely won, and I decided I needed to be part of it,” he said.
After nine years in the Royal Navy, Don became a Methodist minister in England. And then another native British minister, who had a church in Ohio, invited Don and his family to the U.S.
“We decided this was God's will and we came and we've never doubted it. We've had a wonderful life in the United States. This is a great country. I owe this country and the people who defended it so much,” Webb said.
Webb ministered in Ohio and New Jersey. And then in 1977, he came to Centenary where he served as president for 14 years.
“I would go into the chapel and kneel at the altar and just thank God that he brought me to this place, and that I was being some use here and I pray for his help,” Webb said.
And he never thought about moving back to his native England.
“This is our country. We are Americans," he said.
Something else that helped Webb and his late wife Renee become American was having two more children born here in the U.S. for a total of five. And then, of course, came grandchildren.
But there is one reminder of England, and his military service. The grounds crew gave Webb a big round, plastic ball, and painted it black with the word "mine" on it.
"I don't know what it was, or where it came from," Webb said.
But he has it anchored down outside his home on Cross Lake where he mostly takes it easy in retirement.
“If you need a mine swept, give me a shout,” he joked.
Webb has continued as a senior or visiting minister at Methodist churches in Shreveport and Bossier City.