November 10, 2013

Honoring veterans

POW, Marine reflect on wartime experience

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — 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.

He retired after 20 years as a U.S. Marshal and spent 10 to 15 years in New Orleans before moving back to Logansport in 1988.

Stokes talked about the importance of honoring veterans, like Burks.

“They served their country and served it well,” Stokes said. “It’s important we recognize all veterans for their services.”

Another local veteran, Tyler Cosgray, from the Buffalo area, enlisted in the Marine Corps when he turned 18 years old.

Cosgray served two deployments in Iraq. After he graduated from boot camp in September 2004, he had his first deployment in Iraq from October 2005 to May 2006. His next deployment in Iraq was May until August 2007.

While in the Marine Corps, Cosgray moved his way up from driver to gunner to vehicle commander and then sergeant and squad leader.

When Cosgray came home in 2008, he started working at an ethanol plant, then moved to a plastic molding company and is now a patrolman for the Monticello Police Department. Cosgray, the first from his family to become a Marine, is also about to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science.

“I always wanted to be a Marine and serve my country,” Cosgray said. “Being a Marine causes you to mature quickly, learn leadership skills and learn to take care of your fellow brother next to you. When you serve a community or country try to do it with as much honor as you can.”

Stokes, himself a disabled veteran, talked of the importance of honoring veterans.

“There are people out there who no one realizes is a veteran,” Stokes said. “We’re just like every day people, but every veteran has a story – whether they served stateside or combat.”

Cosgray agreed with Stokes.

“Just remember the sacrifices we make,” Cosgray said. “We are away from our families for a long time and being in a combat zone can be stressful.”

Stokes also talked of the sacrifices veterans made and are still making.

“We did a job, but did a job that could have taken our life,” Stokes said.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.

If you go: WHAT: Veterans Day ceremonies and parade WHEN: First ceremony starts at 10:15 a.m. Monday WHERE: Clock tower at Cass County Government Building on Fourth Street; parade will proceed east on (different direction than traffic flow) Broadway to the Logansport City Building for a second ceremony