Veterans Day Salute: Army veteran leads Chaffee Crossing parade

Veterans Day Salute: Army veteran leads Chaffee Crossing parade
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

Sgt. First Class (Ret.) Carder Ferguson never imagined himself riding in a Veterans Day parade. He’s one of those “fixers” you find behind the scenes, making sure things run smoothly.

But on Nov. 13, he’ll be grand marshal of the parade at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith. He is, according to Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority spokeswoman Lorie Robertson, the youngest grand marshal in the nine-year history of the event, selected to support the theme “Our Wounded Warriors, “focusing our thanks for veterans of the Gulf War to present.”

Ferguson says he’s honored, but he downplays the idea of heroism in his Army service. It takes until the end of a conversation to find out he received a Purple Heart, awarded in the name of the President of the United States to those wounded — or killed — in combat. He never mentions the three Meritorious Service Medals, two Army Commendation Medals and six Army Achievement Medals and adds only in a postscript that he was chosen in 2020 for the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted Nov. 6.

Ferguson is quick to make jokes — like saying he joined the service after graduating from Van Buren High School in 1985 “because my parents sold my bed, and I didn’t have any place to sleep.” More seriously, he admits he didn’t have any college plans, but he did have experience in high school ROTC, and “the military made an offer.” He served 22 years, completing two combat tours of duty: one in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the other in Operation Enduring Freedom. On the second tour, he was a combat engineer, moving in the forefront of a troop relocation to Forward Operating Base Gunslinger in Baghdad, when he was hit by shrapnel from a mortar attack. He carried the piece of shrapnel in his leg until November 2020, when it was finally removed.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, Carder Ferguson was a combat engineer. The photo on the cover was taken just before he moved out at the forefront of a troop relocation to Forward Operating Base Gunslinger in Baghdad. Now retired, he will be grand marshal of the Veterans Day Parade Nov. 13 at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith. (Courtesy Photo)

Ferguson retired in 2007, having served the last 12 years of his enlistment in the Arkansas Army National Guard. Now, he spends his time working through the Military Order of the Purple Heart with veterans in seven states to help them find the services they need, volunteering with the Boy Scouts — and being proud of his son, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is in his ninth year of service.

Chaffee Crossing’s Robertson says the area’s history as Fort Chaffee makes it “sacred ground” to veterans, and the Veterans Day event is always a big one. Canceled last year by covid-19 concerns, it will still be missing one important component this year, the awarding of medals to veterans or posthumously to their families. But the day will include “The Missing Man,” a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action; a name-by-name salute to the 18,000-plus veterans buried at the Fort Smith National Cemetery; and celebrations of the 68th anniversary of Ebbing Air Force Base and the 80th anniversary of the beginning of construction of Fort Chaffee. The 1.25 mile parade route ends at the Chaffee Crossing museums — the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, where Elvis Presley received his first G.I. buzz cut when he joined the Army in March 1958, and the Museum of Chaffee History, which Robertson says offers a “timeline of the history of Camp Chaffee/Fort Chaffee, which has served a very important role in U.S. military history from World War II to the present day.”

Tanya Tucker says she is honored to complete the homage to veterans by playing “Taps.” Tucker is chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Arkansas and for the post in Greenwood, where she lives. A veteran of Desert Storm, she says “it’s important to continue serving our veterans. Especially as a woman I want to be out there. I want to serve all of our veterans but especially other women veterans, who just aren’t seen. We still have a long way to go.”

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FAQ

Veterans Day Parade

WHEN — Noon Nov. 13

WHERE — Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith

COST — Free

INFO — chaffeecrossing.com

FYI — New socks, hats and gloves will be collected to be distributed through Antioch Veteran Food Pantry. Toys for Tots will also be collected.

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FYI

Chaffee Crossing

Veterans Day

9 a.m. — Food Festival begins

9 a.m. — Gabrielle Gore will sing on the Chaffee Crossing Veterans Memorial until 10 a.m.

10 a.m. — Veteran Honors Ceremony on the Chaffee Crossing Veterans Memorial

11:30 a.m. — Music by the James Strong Band before and after the parade

Noon — Parade begins

2 p.m. — Celebration ends

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