PINEVILLE, La. - Col. Walter J. Austin, state chaplain of the Louisiana National Guard, was honored in a retirement ceremony at the Stafford House at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, La., Jan. 9.

During the ceremony Austin received the Minuteman Plaque in recognition of 20 years of honorable service. He also received a Meritorious Service Medal and the Louisiana Legion of Merit award.

Austin, a Catholic priest, proudly served Soldiers and their families in both his military capacity, and as a civilian parish priest.

"The real joy I got out of being in the Guard was to be able to minister to the Soldiers," said Austin. "I baptized and did weddings in the military capacity and on the civilian side with these Soldiers."

Lt. Col. Robert S. Baker Jr., the acting state chaplain of the LANG, ministered alongside Austin for many years and celebrated their close friendship.

"I don't think I can have a better friend as a chaplain," said Baker. "He has always been a Catholic chaplain and I have been a Protestant chaplain; it doesn't matter to him or me what faith, or lack of faith, a Soldier has. We are going to minister to that Soldier. That's what we are all about."

Austin conducted his last mass in a military capacity at the Camp Beauregard chapel immediately after the retirement ceremony.

"It's interesting because today is also my first time celebrating Mass in the newly refurbished chapel," said Austin. "I'm retiring but I'm still going to be friends with all these people here. You just don't get it out of your blood."