The eight veterans who will serve as grand marshals of this year’s boat parade for the Plaquemine July 4th Hometown Celebration have been announced. They are: Steve Bezet, Earl J. Crochet, Joseph “Pete” Edwards, Edward R. Erwin, Conrad Joffrion, Harold “Mike” Little, Timmy Martinez, and James B. Nelson.
They will ride in the first boat for the July 4th Boat Parade, which begins at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, July 3, and will be honored during a brief ceremony at the Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park after the parade ends. The City of Plaquemine honors eight local veterans each year as part of the July 4 Celebration. Following is a brief military history on each veteran:
Steve Bezet – served in the U.S. Navy from 1982 until 1989. He reached the rank of PR1. His service took him from boot camp in Chicago to the Naval Air Station in New Jersey, to San Diego, where he was then deployed to two western Pacific patrols on aircraft carrier ships –the U.S.S. Ranger and the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. His job entailed maintaining safety and survival equipment for aviators. After his sea duty tour, he was assigned to shore duty at the Naval Fighter Weapons School, better known as Topgun, about three months after the movie came out. While serving he also traveled to Hawaii and Kenya. He recalls losing friends and shipmates in duty related accidents, and fondly remembers the “great people” he served with from across the country. He received the Navy Achievement Medal.
Earl J. Crochet – served in the U.S. Army as a supply sergeant during the Vietnam conflict from 1967 until 1970. At the time, he was stationed in Germany, and moved supplies for troops to different parts of the world.
Joseph “Pete” Edwards – served in the U.S. Navy from 1980 through 1985. He ended his service with the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class, and was stationed at the San Diego Naval Base. But he spent about 80 percent of his service on naval ships and traveled to many places, including Hawaii, China, Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan and more. He received two Navy Expeditionary Medals for participating in western Pacific tours, two Battle-E Ribbons for service on the U.S.S. Samuel Gompers AD-37, and the Humanitarian Award for work performed on Fiji Island after it was hit by a typhoon.
Edward R. Erwin – served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959 until 1961. He reached the rank of E4. From basic training in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina he shipped to Alaska for cold weather training, and then was transferred to Germany to serve in the artillery battalion as an ammunition specialist, where he spent the remainder of his service.
Conrad Joffrion – served in the National Guard from 1958 until 1961 during the Cuban missile crisis. He was stationed at Ft. Chaffee in Arkansas, where he completed the speed radio operator course in sending and receiving Morse code. He also received the Marksmanship badge with an MI riffle and sharpshooter badge with a carbine rifle. He said the drill sergeant who he thought was very mean, also taught him discipline and helped shape his life.
Harold “Mike” Little – served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968 until 1972 during the Vietnam War. After boot camp in San Diego, he was transferred to Vietnam, where he saw combat action and earned the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal, the Civil Action Award and other honors. He ended his military service as a sergeant at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. He recalls the friends he made in service, and the friends lost in the war.
Timmy Martinez – served in the National Guard from 1971 until 1977, and was stationed at Fort Polk. He ended his service as Staff Sergeant, and fondly recalls the people he met during his service.
James B. Nelson - served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war. He saw active duty in Vietnam and in Germany. He remembers most the snow in Germany and the difficulty of the war in Vietnam.