By Linda Collins
For the Herald
ENON — James A. Branham, commander of the Enon Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8437, George Rogers Clark Memorial, has been named grand marshal of the 2016 Fourth of July Parade in the Village of Enon.
Branham, who will turn 53 on July 24, will the lead the parade when it kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4 from Indian Valley Intermediate School, 510 S. Xenia Drive, and end at the Enon/Mad River Township Fire and EMS Department which is located at 260 W. Main St.
Maxine McKee, who spearheads the annual event, said Branham was the perfect choice to lead the hometown parade because he has spent much of his life serving his country, his fellow veterans, and his community.
“I am delighted that Jimmy was chosen as our grand marshal this year because he is a honored veteran and a true patriot,” McKee said.
McKee noted that he when she told Branham he had been selected as grand marshal, he embraced the honor with genuine grace and humility.
The Army veteran expressed his gratitude to the grand marshal selection committee and to the Enon/Mad River Township Fire and EMS Department which sponsors the Independence Day Parade, an open house, and free picnic lunch to the public each year.
“I am very honored that the fire and EMS department is recognizing my achievements, and I am really looking forward to riding in the parade,” Branham said following the public announcement. “It will be one of the highlights of my life.”
Branham also expressed his appreciation to his wife, Amy Lynn for the support she has given him in all his endeavors with the VFW and Military Order of the Cootie. He also acknowledged his two stepchildren, Sarah Sweitzer, a senior at Greenon High School, and Michael Backus who is serving in the United States Air Force and is currently stationed in England.
The Enon native, who is the son of the late Paul Branham and Onita Ann Blazier, graduated from Greenon High School in 1981 and was employed at Merrill’s Supermarket in Enon until he enlisted in the U.S. Army on Oct. 20, 1982. During his 20 years of military service, Branham served at many duty stations, including 18 Army posts abroad.
“My assignments include the 2nd Battalion, 75th Infantry Airborne Rangers, based at Fort Lewis in Washington; the 25th Infantry Division Schofield Barracks in Hawaii; the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum in New York; and the Cleveland Recruiting Battalion,” Branham said.
Branham’s combat/hazardous deployments included Operation Urgent Fury on the Island of Grenada in 1983, Operation Desert Storm which took place in Iraq in 1991, Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia in 1993, and Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994.
His non-combat overseas service included five 30-day deployments to the US Army Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama, a month-long, joint military exercise in Korea, and two deployments to the Philippines. Branham also served in England, Germany, Honduras, Wake Island, Japan, Guam, Thailand, Belgium, Australia, Canada and Greenland.
Throughout his military career, Branham received countless medals for his gallant service. He was also twice awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
In addition, Branham received the Army Superior Unit Award, the Humanitarian Service Award, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Following the completion of officer development courses, Branham received the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (advanced level). He also receive the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon twice, the United Nations Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, the Uniform Service Recruiter Badge, the U.S. Army Recruiter Ring, and the Glen E. Morrell Medallion.
While in service, Branham received an Associate General Studies Degree from Central Texas College and also joined the Enon VFW Post.
Branham’s retirement on Dec. 31, 2002 marked the end of his exceptional military career, and the Army veteran returned to his hometown of Enon where he later became actively involved in many activities at the local VFW post. From 2006 to 2009, he served on the VFW Post House Committee and became senior vice commander in 2009. He continue to serve that position until 2010 when he assumed the role as commander of the VFW post. While serving as commander from 2010 to 2011, Branham also served as all-state commander and served again as all-state commander from 2015 to 2016.
“Now, I am the commander again for the third time,” said Branham.
The Army Veteran has also held appointed committee positions with District 3, Department of Ohio VFW for the last six years, including chair of the Drug and Safety Abuse Committee, MOC (Military Order of the Cootie) liaison and legislative adviser.
Branham joined the Military Order of the Cootie in June of 2006, and has held positions as Hide Gimlet, Blanket Bum, and Seam Squirrel at both the pup tent and district levels. He is also the Deputy MOC VAVS (Veterans Affairs Voluntary Services) representative for the Dayton Veterans’ Medical Center and served as Cootie Grand Commander from 2014 to 2015.
“Jimmy is certainly dedicated to the veterans and has been a vital part of this community for years,” McKee said. “I am looking forward to seeing Jimmy lead the parade.”
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.