Charles Burks was asked to be the Grand Marshal of the Cass County Veterans Day parade a few times before he agreed.
Burks, a former prisoner of war who belongs to the Legion and the VFW, said he has never done anything like leading a parade.
Burks is a retired U.S. Marshal and was a prisoner of war in World War II. During his 20 years as a U.S. Marshal, Burks took part in the integration of universities in Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama. He is also depicted in the 1960s Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. Marshals.
Jim Stokes, president of Cass County Veterans Council, said veterans make recommendations when choosing a grand marshal and then the council selects someone from recommendations.
“[Burks] has such a history,” Stokes said. “The man fascinates me.”
Burks joined the U.S. Air Force in 1940 and was a B-17 bomber pilot in Europe.
Burks spent about one year in a POW camp after being shot down in Germany. He was sent to Stalag 3 and eventually sent to a POW camp near Nuremberg.
Burks recalls being shot down April 22, 1944. Eventually, he and two other pilots escaped from the POW camp and were on the run for a month.
The pilots had to travel at night, stay in wooded areas during the daytime and sneak around until they could meet up with American forces and be brought back home in 1945.
“He’s an American hero in my mind,” Stokes said. “He put his life on the line, not once, but two or three times.”
After coming back to Logansport, Burks joined the Logansport Police Department for five years before becoming a U.S. Marshal. As a U.S. Marshal, he spent time in various places including northern Indiana and eastern Illinois. He was later assigned to the U.S. Marshals office in New Orleans.