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Flag Day tribute set for four local veterans

LIVINGSTON – Four veterans will be honored Tuesday, June 14, as part of the local Flag Day ceremonies hosted by American Legion Post #312 at the Polk County Courthouse and the Livingston City Hall.

In coordination with the county and the city, U.S. flags that have been flown over the courthouse, the county judicial center and city hall will be presented to Cannon H. Pritchard, a veteran of the Vietnam War as well as Richard Wade, Gordie H. Robinett and Walt Autry, all veterans of World War II.

The public is invited to attend to show support to these and other veterans who have fought under the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag.

“Flag Day celebrates America’s symbol of unity, a democracy in a republic; and stands for our country’s devotion to freedom, to the rule of all, and to the equal rights for all,” said retired USAF Maj. Jeannette Jackson of the American Legion post.

“On June 14, at 9 a.m., the American Legion Post #312, supported by the city and county, will again honor four of Polk County’s distinguished veterans with the presentation of the American Flags that have been flying over our county and city since Flag Day, June 14, 2015.  Last year’s honors went to three WWII veterans.  They were Mr. Claude Thomas, Mr. James David Coogler Jr. and Mr. Kara Lee Hall (now deceased). Please show these veterans your gratitude by your presence.”

The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. at the Polk County Courthouse by the flagpoles and will move across the street to the Livingston City Hall at 10 a.m.

This year’s recipients are:

Cannon H. Pritchard
Vietnam Veteran

Mr. Cannon H. Pritchard is a sixth generation Texan and Polk Countian. He was born in 1941 in Livingston, graduated Livingston High School in 1959 and received a Bachelors Degree in business administration from Baylor University.  

In 1963, Pritchard joined the United States Air Force as an officer, ultimately rising to the rank of colonel before retiring after 30 years of highly decorated and distinguished military service. Some of his tours of duty include Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and India.

Active in the Livingston community, he is a member of the United Methodist Church where he has been honored with The Cross and Flame award for outstanding service to youth.  He has also received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America and the District Award of Merit for Explorer Scouts.

He is a member of several local, state and national organizations, including the Polk County Heritage Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Republic of Texas, Texas Society of Mayflower Descendants and he is a national member of The National World War II Museum.

Pritchard spends his pastime on genealogical research.  

He is also the owner of the property on the corner of U.S. 59 and U.S 190 next to Whataburger. He has graciously allowed the city to use this property to erect the beautifully designed lighted patriotic displays and the military service flags encircling the United States Flag.

 Livingston Mayor Clarke Evans will have the honor of presenting Pritchard with the American Flag that has been flying over city hall.

Richard Wade
WWII Veteran

Richard Wade was born Feb. 5, 1924 in Portland, Maine. Prior to his 17th birthday, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy to avoid being drafted into the Army. After four weeks at boot camp in Rhode Island, he received orders to Breezy Point Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., where he was offered an opportunity to go to Banana River Naval Air Station (now known as Patrick AFB) to attend Radio Operator School, and he seized it..  

After his training, he was called back to Norfolk to a new squadron to continue training; then back to Banana River for more training and then to North Carolina for shake down.

Wade’s squadron was assigned to Brazil for submarine hunting and convoy coverage. After completing this tour, he was assigned to a training squadron in Corpus Christi as a radio operator training instructor for crews headed for the South Pacific. He stayed there, until the end of the war.

It was in Corpus Christi where he met and married Eve Roberts. They had four children.

After his tour of duty was over, Wade made Houston home, working for Missouri Pacific until his retirement in 1982.

He joined the Livingston Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1985. At the age of 92, he currently serves as post commander and is a member of the honor guard. He holds the proud distinction of being a VFW Legacy Life Member. He is also a member of the American Legion, the Disabled Veterans and the 1st United Methodist Church of Livingston, where he has served as usher for 23+ years.

Of all the jobs and positions Wade has had throughout his rich life, his favorite was the times he spent as a clown. At the age of 60, he attended clown school and became known as Patches. Patches performed for private parties, special events and with the circus. But his favorite was the Children’s Hospital and MD Anderson Hospital in Houston where his greatest joy was bringing smiles on the faces of children fighting for their lives.

Wade will be receiving the Polk County Courthouse flag from Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

Gordie H. Robinett
WWII Veteran

Gordie H. Robinett was born Dec. 22, 1921 in Livingston, the son of Jay and Mettie Robinett.  He attended high school in Onalaska until the eighth grade.

In 1940, at the age of 19, Robinett joined the U. S Army as part of the cavalry but was soon transferred to become a paratrooper, being assigned to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.  Upon completing training, Robinett was shipped to Casablanca in North Africa.  Here, he and his unit     made numerous parachute jumps behind enemy lines.

When U.S. and British forces launched the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, Robinett fought and remained until the island was captured.

In January 1944, his unit landed on the beach at Anzio, Italy where they were ordered to knock out the big German guns that were aimed at the beach, and they did, but not without an immense cost in lives. Throughout this fighting, Robinett made 57 jumps, often working as a sniper who was sent behind enemy lines to engage German officers.

While fighting in France following D-Day, Robinett was wounded when he was hit in the left thigh by a piece of shrapnel. The severity of the wound dictated that he be transferred to a hospital in Temple, Texas  where he remained until he was discharged in 1944.

After returning to Polk County, he worked as a welder for 35 years. Today Robinett owns and operates his craft shop on Highway 146 where he builds a variety wooden craft items.
His wife, Hazel Cotton, died in 2004.  He has three daughters, Shirley, Pat, and Terrie; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Robinett will receive the Polk County Judicial Center flag from Murphy.

Walt T. Autry
WWII and Korean War Veteran

Retired printer Walt T. Autry is a 93-year-old veteran of both World War II and the Korean Conflict.

He served for almost three years and 11 months in the Navy as a diesel engineer repairing damaged ships during World War II.

“I was madder than hell when I heard Pearl Harbor was bombed,” says Autry, so he joined the Navy on Dec. 20, 1941. Prior to that, he was in the Merchant Marines sailing on a banana boat between Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Galveston.

Because of his experience working on steamboats up and down the Mississippi River, after enlistment he was sent to Mobile, Alabama, as a steam engineer. After a short time, he was sent to Houston to attend diesel school. His last assignment was in Maryland.

When Autry returned home, he decided to continue the education that was interrupted in the seventh grade.  On his commute to and from high school was a print shop he became fascinated with. It took about a year but he finally got into the printing business.

But in 1951, the military requested Autry’s service once more.

“They called me back and I asked them, ‘What in the world are you calling me back for?’ They told me, ‘You’re a diesel engineer.’ They needed every diesel engineer for landing craft vehicle personnel.”

So he returned to the military, this time in the Korean War. Now Autry was a chief engineer stationed in the Philippines.

After the war was over Autry moved to Houston. With Lorraine, his wife by his side, Autry became an independent printer. In about 1969, Autry and Lorraine started looking for a retirement location and found just what they wanted in Livingston.  So, he sold his printing business in 1969 to his father-in-law and moved to Livingston.

He and his wife Loraine have been married for 73 years. Through his association with the Lions Club, Autry began to sell specialty-printing items. He began to get requests and would work on Wednesdays. Business boomed and this veteran found himself working full time again, selling products as far as Nacogdoches until the late 1990s.

These days, Walt and Loraine can be found three days of the week hanging out at the Escapees, enjoying their  friends and the activities.