Hooked on Heroes board members are joined by city and county officials as well as RIVEROAK Technical College representatives at the unveiling of the steel silhouette of a soldier in Veterans Park last week.

LIVE OAK — Hooked on Heroes reeled in another way to support local veterans.

The non-profit organization that takes veterans fishing in the Gulf of Mexico donated a silhouette to the City of Live Oak and Suwannee County on Jan. 7 to replace a deteriorating statue in Veterans Park in downtown Live Oak.

“I’m so proud of this, that we have put something up here that will be here a long time in this Veterans Park,” Ron Cadle, the founder and director of Hooked on Heroes, said during the unveiling ceremony.

The process to replace the old wooden silhouette of a soldier began when Cadle was at the park for an interview and saw that it was in need of replacement.

What began as a plan to just replace it with another two-dimensional wooden statue changed, though, at a Hooked on Heroes board meeting. There, the organization decided to instead provide a steel statue to ensure its longevity.

“I think it will last a long time,” Cadle said, thanking RIVEROAK Technical College for cutting the steel sculpture and Trendsetters Car Stereo and Powder Coating for powder coating the steel. “It’s sure going to outlast me, I know that.

“To me, it’s something that’s important because I’m a veteran. Any veteran knows that something like this is something we think about and always remember.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to dedicate this silhouette to the City of Live Oak and to the County Commissioners and Suwannee County.”

City and county officials were honored to accept the donation as well.

“I appreciate this effort to honor men and women who have served,” Mayor Frank Davis said. “That is just a beautiful silhouette here and this is just a beautiful park. What makes this park special is it is dedicated to one of the great causes that distinguishes America and that is the freedoms that we have provided by the great men and women that have served in the military and have served to make us free.”

Ricky Gamble and Don Hale, members of the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners, both said they have been privileged to take part in the fishing trips that Hooked on Heroes provides twice a year. It’s an experience that has changed them.

“We need to support them just like they’re supporting the veterans and supporting Suwannee County,” Gamble said. “They’re giving back to the community…They get nothing out of it other than the satisfaction of knowing that they’re doing something to help veterans.”

Hale added: “I’m the one that gets the good feeling after it. In the end, I’m the one that is rewarded for being part of it.

“We can’t forget our veterans. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we have the freedoms that we have.”

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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