Two Buffalo Island veterans honored
Two Buffalo Island veterans, Eli Paul Baker of Monette and Johnny McCormick of Caraway, were honored Saturday, Dec. 23.
Each received a plaque for their service and a bronze statue provided through the Veterans Helping Veterans organization of Northeast Arkansas.
Former Milligan Ridge native and veteran Eddie Joe Barker was honored to be able to present the awards on behalf of the organization.
Veterans Helping Veterans of NEA is a non-profit organization in Craighead County made up of veterans with a mission to help fellow men and women who have served their country. Barker said all of the work is volunteer.
“We are here to help veterans with paper work to get benefits they are entitled to; help if there is an immediate need; and to recognize them for their service,” Barker said. “Every penny donated to our organization goes to help veterans.”
Barker presented a framed plaque to Air Force Staff Sergeant Eli Paul Baker.
It reads: U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force: 1948-1970. A Korean, Vietnam and Cold War Veteran, he served with Honor and Distinction at a critical time during our Nation's history. His service reflects great credit upon himself, his community, the U.S. Navy “Semper Fortis” “Always Courageous,” the U.S. Air Force “Aim High....Fly-Fight-Win” and the United States of America.
He was also presented with a bronze statue and honorary membership into the Veterans Helping Veterans of NEA.
Mr. Baker, 88, and his wife, Vonnie Louise, live in Monette.
“I think everyone should serve at least two years in the military,” Mr. Baker said. “It was an honor for me to serve. I appreciate the group for honoring veterans while they are still alive.”
The plaque will hang with several others recognizing his over 20 years of service.
Barker then presented Johnny McCormick of Caraway with a framed plaque and bronze statue.
Barker and McCormick are childhood friends growing up in Milligan Ridge.
McCormick and and his wife, Christy, live in Caraway.
McCormick received a Purple Heart. He was wounded during his service in Vietnam.
He served in the Army from 1969 to 1971.
He had 53 days left in Vietnam when he was wounded.
“I had just written a letter home saying I had 53 days to go,” he said. “In two weeks I was going on R&R.”
He spent the next 10 months in hospitals. He said he doesn't remember the first hospital but the second hospital was Okinawa for 30 days. He was then transported to Ft. Leonard Wood for 30 days and then closer to home to the VA Hospital in Memphis.
The plaque presented to McCormick read:
To: Army Specialist John E. McCormick: U.S. Army: May 1969 to Jan. 1971. A Combat Wounded Veteran who served with Honor and Distinction at a critical time during our Nation's history in Vietnam, as a “Recon Specialist” with Co. E, 1st Bn. 46th Inf. 196th Lt. Inf. Brigade, “Charger-Ahead of the Rest.” His service reflects great credit upon himself, his Community, the U.S. Army, and the United States of America. “This We'll Defend.”
The bronze statue will be placed next to a wooden carved statue given to McCormick at one of the company reunions. The wooden carving was made by a fellow soldier who had served with him in Vietnam. The carved statue is of McCormick being carried out after being wounded.
“When I walked into the reunion for the first time, we both cried,” McCormick said. “The last time he saw me I was being carried out with my leg dragging. He didn't know if I would ever walk again.”
McCormick thanked the Veterans Helping Veterans for honoring him.