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Live Oak Veteran’s Day Parade
McCook Selected as Grand Marshal

By Jeffry Boatright

The Suwannee Regional Veterans Parade is slated to begin at 9 a.m., Nov. 11, in Live Oak, with Suwannee County native Gene McCook serving as the 2017 Grand Marshal. The annual parade and subsequent memorial service, which is held at the Live Oak City Cemetery, is a time set aside to honor and celebrate our military veterans from all eras and branches of service.

With a number of distinguished Vietnam combat veterans nominated for the parade’s grand marshal, McCook, who selflessly served the United States Army in Cambodia and Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division, was selected by a committee as this year’s grand marshal. During his active duty service to our country, McCook bravely served in reconnaissance. According to Suwannee County Veterans Officer Ellis Gray, McCook was also assigned to a Presidential detail when President Lyndon B. Johnson arrived at Cam Ranh Bay. While serving our nation, McCook was wounded twice in combat along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and received two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantry Badge. McCook now devotes much of his time working with Hooked on Heroes, an organization devoted to carrying local veterans on fishing trips.

Not one for the limelight, McCook is humble in accepting the honor to serve as this year’s grand marshal. It is a distinction that he does not take lightly, nor does he take lightly the sacrifices of others who have gallantly served our great nation. “It hurts to see people disrespect our country,” he articulated in reference to athletes who take a knee during our national anthem. “People need to stand up and be proud to be an American and show respect for the flag and veterans.” McCook added that anyone who enjoys freedom should thank a veteran because it is the veterans and the sacrifices they have made that have kept this country free.

The freedom that McCook speaks of certainly has not been without a price. Sadly, the price of freedom and the cost of wars won have been through the bloodshed and lives sacrificed by our brave men and women of the United States military.

McCook was selected from a list of impressive candidates to serve as grand marshal. Among those names were Ron Cadle, Ellis Gray, Jr., Norman Poindexter, Lee Peters, Jimmy Skeen, Johnny Skeen, Homer Stamper, Bennie Thomas, Sid Thompkins and Douglas Udell.

While serving in Vietnam, Ron Cadle was a radio operator during infantry patrols. Cadle also spends much of his time today working with Hooked on Heroes. Also familiar with patrols in Vietnam is Ellis Gray, Jr., who patrolled the coastal waters and rivers of Vietnam on a patrol boat. Gray helped provide fire support and transported troops and boarded vessels.

Norman Poindexter, who served the Unites States Army in the First Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, and First Air Cavalry, received two Bronze Star Medals a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and three Army commendations. Poindexter was wounded by a mine in Vietnam.

One of the founding members of the local American Legion, Lee Peters, was also nominated for his service in the U.S. Navy. Peters served on the USS Caddo Parish, delivering troops and supplies to the beach in 1966. After transferring to the USS Coontz, he served in Vietnam coastal waters rescuing pilots who had been shot down by the North Vietnamese.

Twin brothers Jimmy and Johnny Skeen both served in the U.S. Army at the same time in Vietnam as helicopter crewmen where they carried out duties as door gunners. During this time, Jimmy Skeen received a Purple Heart.

Homer Stamper, who served in the United States Air Force was stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon.

While fighting in the Tet Offensive with the U.S. Army Fourth Infantry Division, Bennie Thomas received two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantry Badge.

Sid Thompkins, who served in the United States Marine Corps also received a Purple Heart after being wounded in action while serving in Vietnam.

During his service in the United States Army, Douglas Udell was wounded in action three times, receiving seven gunshot wounds. He received three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars before being medically evacuated from Vietnam.

Certainly any one of these veterans mentioned, along with all other veterans who have honorably served our nation, are more than deserving of any and all accolades awarded. One small way that we, as grateful Americans, might honor those who served is to show our support by attending the Suwannee Regional Veterans Parade, along with the Veterans Day Ceremony at 11 a.m. According to Gray, a meal will be provided for all veterans at the Elks Lodge in Live Oak immediately following the ceremony.