04/13/09 — Local veteran will serve as grand marshal

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Local veteran will serve as grand marshal

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 13, 2009 1:41 PM

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Bill Carr

Local veteran Bill Carr got a phone call a few weeks ago that left him "humbled."

It was the mayor of his hometown -- Lynn Haven, Fla. -- asking the retired Marine to be the grand marshal in the town's Fourth of July parade.

"Really, it's one of the best honors I have ever had," Carr said. "I was floored when the mayor called me."

But he wasn't chosen because of his tour in Vietnam -- for taking a bullet during his stint in the jungle and being sent home.

He was picked because of his commitment to others like him -- because he founded the Bay County Military Order of the Purple Heart back in 2007.

"I felt like I had to do something for them," he said of the veterans in his hometown. "They have done so much for me down there."

Maybe that is why he refused to stand alone during this summer's parade -- why he insisted that other members of the Purple Heart organization stand alongside him.

After all, men and women like them made him want to join the service when he was a young boy growing up on nearby Tyndall Air Force Base.

"I was very inspired," he said. "That's why it is such an honor being asked to go back down there."

More than 50 years ago at age 16, Carr forged his birth certificate to join the Marine Corps.

Twelve years later, he began a tour in Vietnam he says changed him forever.

Stationed along the Demilitarized Zone, he and the platoon he commanded made contact with enemy troops nearly every day until a gunshot wound sent him back to the U.S.

And while he still thinks about those young men who never made it home from the jungle, he says there is little he would change about his experience as a Marine.

In fact, being a Marine is all he knows.

So when he travels to Florida this Independence Day, he vows to take with him a perspective 70 years in the making -- mainly, that those who wear their country's uniform are heroes.

Even if he never describes himself as one.