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Mardi Gras Krewe Honors Veterans in New Orleans

Legion of Mars aims to transform the lives of those who have given so much to this country — and never got their due

Among the balls, parades, and philanthropic works Mardi Gras krewes undertake throughout the year, one stands out as unique. Legion of Mars, a krewe named for the Roman god of war who fought only to secure the peace, was founded by a group of New Orleans JAG (judge advocate general) attorneys in 2013.

One of its founders is retired Lt. Col. Roderick “Rico” Alvendia.

“A few of us returned from active duty serving overseas and we noticed there were no krewes around that would actually honor just the military,” Alvendia said in an interview Monday night with Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo on “The Ingraham Angle.”

“We wanted to have fun, but we wanted to do something that would honor the military, our fallen soldiers, the wounded warriors, so many out there,” he continued.

More than 70 “krewes” provide the power that drives the famous parades in Orleans for Mardi Gras. Legion of Mars is the only krewe that is dedicated to veterans. While this krewe throws traditional beads from its floats, its throws also include signature canteens.

Many of those riding the Legion of Mars floats have seen combat; Legion of Mars honors every branch of the military. It pays special tribute to Purple Heart recipients who ride with the krewe on the floats in the parade every year.

“We’re very appreciative of the people who sponsored us and this float. They really went out of their way to do this for us. … So many people forgot the Vietnam veterans,” said one of the men honored this year.

Fred Burmaster and Bill Trowe served in Vietnam together. They were reunited after more than 45 years thanks to their participation with this special krewe.

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“It’s been a blessing. It’s kind of brought me out of my shell, and [it] gave me an opportunity to meet folks. I feel a lot [more] comfortable being around veterans,” said Burmaster, a veteran whose wife encouraged him to connect with the Legion of Mars krewe.

“It’s amazing how much support we get from the general public,” said Rico Alvendia. “People really appreciate the military, and that’s why it’s so important for our members to see that.”

He added, “A lot of guys might not have experienced that when they came back, and they’re seeing that [now] on the streets of New Orleans. It’s just fantastic.”

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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.