Claude Crawford

This year's Veterans on Parade is dedicated in memoriam to Claude Crawford, who was career Army until his retirement. After that, he spent a lot of time helping other veterans with their benefits and healthcare issues. 

The 15th Annual Veterans on Parade is set for Sunday, Nov. 10, in downtown Port Allen beginning at 1:30 p.m. 

The parade will begin at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Oaks Avenue, then run north along Jefferson to the West Baton Rouge Museum.  

Organizers of the parade ask that participants arrive by 11:30 a.m. to be placed in the lineup. 

For more information, call (225) 344-2920 or visit w  www.westbatonrouge.net. 

This year’s parade is dedicated in memoriam to Claude Crawford, who died suddenly early this year. 

He was first honored by the parade’s organizers, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Port Allen, as the parade’s grand marshal in 2017. 

Crawford served a distinguished career with the U.S. Army beginning in 1968 and served four tours in Vietnam during the war there. 

Serving as a Green Beret, Crawford earned a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and five Bronze Star medals during his time in the conflict.

After his time in Vietnam, Crawford spent the rest of his military career in Ft. Knox, Ky., Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri and in Germany. 

The likeable and respected veteran spent the rest of his life dedicated to his family and fellow veterans. 

Crawford was the district commander of the 6th District of the American Legion, the commander of American Legion Hall 160 in Port Allen and a member of its Honor Guard and he was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall 3785 in Addis. 

This year’s Veterans on Parade will honor three American heroes as parade marshals, Army veteran Roosevelt B. Gipson Sr., Oliver A. “Skip” Holbert Jr., and U.S. Air Force veteran Nolan J. “Country” Ruiz. 

Gibson retired after 20 years in the Army as a first sergeant and after serving in several leadership positions in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 101st Airborne Division. 

He served in combat duty with each of the divisions—one in the Dominican Republic with the 82nd, two in Vietnam (1966-1967) with the 173rd, and another tour in Vietnam with the 101st, beginning in 1968 and ending in 1969. 

After he retired, Gibson served as a Junior ROTC instructor for over 23 years at Scotlandville High and another 21 at Belaire High. 

Like Crawford, Gibson earned a chest full of medals for his bravery in combat. 

He received three Bronze Stars, two emblazoned with “V” for valor, a Purple Heart, two Army Meritorious Service medals, three Army Commendation medals, the Vietnam Service Medal with the Arrowhead, six Campaign Battle Stars, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Vietnam Campaign medal, the Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism for his participation in the battle known as Hamburger Hill, the Senior Parachutist badge with a combat jump assault star for his actions during Operation Junction City. 

Holbert finished his military career with over 24 years of service in the Navy. He had to convince his father to sign the papers allowing him to enlist at the age of 17. 

He set two goals for himself when he enlisted—to become an electrician and to serve on a submarine. Holbert graduated at the top of his electrician class and was then assigned to submarine school. 

After his graduation, he was assigned to a WWII era diesel sub and after just six month, he earned the coveted “Dolphin” title, a title indicating he was qualified to work on a submarine and had adapted to life aboard the cramped container. 

After several promotions to reach petty officer status, Holbert served on two more WWII submarines then volunteered for Nuclear Power School, an intense experience designed to prepare sailors for duty on nuclear submarines. 

The training was broad based and so tough that of 200 sailors who began the training, less than 40 finished. 

Holbert continued training with advanced electrician and communications schools, another level of schooling with a high attrition rate. After his completion from those training sessions, Holbert reached the rank of First Class Petty Officer. 

His next promotions were tougher and came slower. It took Holbert nearly 12 years to advance to chief electrician, then another three to reach senior chief electrician. Another three, and he reached the pinnacle of his Navy career as an E9 senior chief electrician, the highest rank and enlisted man can hold. 

His lengthy career included serving on five nuclear powered subs and was a member of the commissioning crew of two nuclear submarines, taught nuclear maintenance and repair and was assigned to two submarine squadron commanders staffs. 

Holbert went on a number of missions and earned a number of medals, including the Navy Commendation Medal, six Good Conduct medals, three Vietnam Service medals and numerous others. 

After leaving the Navy, he worked for Stone and Webster Engineering Corp. in New Jersey and was assigned to St. Francisville to help with the construction of the nuclear plant there. 

After the plant was finished, Gulf State Utilities hired Holbert and he advanced quickly to the position of supervisor and qualified as an electrical test technician. 

During his time with Gulf States, by now rebranded as Entergy, he worked on a degree in business administration at Southern University. 

The last of the three American heroes who will serve as a marshal for the Nov. 10 parade is Plaquemine native Ruiz, who joined the U.S. Air Force in 1942. 

He was processed through Camp Beauregard in Pineville, then shuffled to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., for his basic training. 

Ruiz was transferred from Keesler to the U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Training School at Buckley Field in Denver, Colo., then to Aerial Gunnery School in Kingman, Ariz., where he was taught the firing techniques of air-to-air combat as a turret gunner and a tail gunner for bombers technically called B-17s but better known as Flying Fortresses. 

Upon his graduation from gunnery school, Ruiz went to Salt Lake City, Utah, where each pilot picked their own crew. As part of the crew he was chosen for, he was sent to Geiger Field in Spokane, Wash., to complete his training for service on the B-17.

In November 1943, Ruiz reported to the 95th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force at Norwich, England. 

On Mar. 4, 1944, during the first daylight bombing raid on Berlin, Ruiz’s plane was shot, forcing the crew to bail out. He was 19 and spent the next 14 months in a prisoner of war camp in East Prussia. 

As the Russian army began to advance on the POW camp near the end of World War II, prison leaders evacuated the camp. Ruiz and his fellow prisoners spent the next 87 days marching in the snow before being liberated by the 104th Division of the 1st Army lead by Gen. Courtney Hodges on Apr. 26, 1945, near Leipzig, Germany. 

Ruiz was then transported to England and from there to the LaGarde Hospital in New Orleans where he was treated for the frostbite on his feet. 

He was discharged from the Air Force in November 1945, returned to Plaquemine and in May 1946, he bought a restaurant in his hometown. He named it Country’s Café and he operated it until his retirement in 1988. 

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