By Sue Moore
A float honoring veterans which has been entered in the Schoolcraft parade for the last 10 years or more will no longer be organized by Max Loker, a Schoolcraft resident and former Marine. 2015 was his last year, but he is expecting others to step in to honor veterans as he has done for many years.
To adorn the float, he acquired a silhouette of the flag raising on Iwo Jima from a man who had it on his barn but was ready to give it away, Loker said. “We put it on a hay wagon and invited retired military to sit on the float.”
“I just shake the bushes each year and some guys fall out to be on the float. I invite them to ride and tell them it won’t cost them a thing. This observance is not for me, it’s for the veterans. The first and only mishap occurred last year when one of the riders fell off. But he got right back on and rode the whole rest of the way. It’s tough to get around corners with five wagons all linked together.”
“We have grown this observance for our veterans and it makes me really proud. In fact, being in the parade is one of the greatest experiences I have had in life because people show us their love as we ride down the street. We had two kids playing taps one year. The crowd would stand and it seemed like we were all on the same page, just real American people appreciating those who have served.”
Loker’s most memorable moment was his Talons Out Honors Flight to Washington, D.C. in 2014. For a farm kid from Vicksburg to go to the nation’s capital and be treated with such dignity and respect was a once in a lifetime thing, Loker said. He entered the Marines in 1954, a year after graduating from Vicksburg High School. It was during the Korean War but all of his service was spent at 29 Palms, Calif.
For the last few years, the Schoolcraft parade has been honored by a fly-over by the Air National Guard at the start of the parade. One year, a parade official had been trying to arrange it but wasn’t getting the right answer. Loker called the captain at the base in Indiana and said it wasn’t acceptable when there would be all these veterans riding in the parade. He insisted the team journey over Schoolcraft on their way to Indiana and Ohio. They were right on time that year.
“When the parade is all over, we have to quickly unload the wagons and get them back to the farmers we’ve borrowed them from. The 4th of July almost always comes right in the middle of haying time,” Loker said.