He left the Ozarks in the early 1960s to join the Marines, later flew helicopters to rescue U.S. troops out out of Vietnam battle zones and eventually rose to the rank of a four-star general. In fact, his journey eventually took him to the nation’s capital, where he was the pilot of the Marine One helicopter during President Reagan’s tenure.
So when asked to lead the pledge of allegiance for the Price Cutter Pro-Am, southwest Missouri native Marine Gen. Terry Dake gladly obliged Wednesday morning at Highland Springs Country Club.
“That was wonderful, that they asked me to do it,” Dake said. “And to see all these gentlemen put their hands on their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance was pretty powerful.”
The Pledge of Allegiance has become a staple before all of the pro-ams of this year’s PGA Web.com Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, in which the theme is “United We Stand for Kids * Charity * Community * PGA Web.com Tour.”
For Dake, the patriotic theme is meaningful. He graduated from Rocky Comfort High School (about 40 minutes west of Branson) in 1962, later graduated from College of the Ozarks and then joined the Marines, setting out on what became a 34-year career. He is now 73.
“I think the Lord blessed me,” Dake said. “I fought in two wars (Vietnam and Desert Shield & Desert Storm) and got the opportunity to fly President Reagan. But there were 10s of thousands of Marines in between who helped me along. No one gets to the top by himself.”
Dake’s story reads like some Hollywood movie script: He logged more than 6,000 flight hours in military aircraft, with significant flying tours include a combat tour in Vietnam in 1968-69 flying CH-53A helicopters. He was Commanding Officer of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the President’s helicopter, from 1983 to 1985. In the mid-1990s, Dake rose to Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He also served as the Assistant Chief of Staff of Operations, G-3, for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Desert Shield and Desert Storm – the largest wing ever fielded in combat by the Marine Corps.
To Dake, the country is seeing the efforts of troops and remember those who served during Vietnam.
“Vietnam was an interesting time for our country,” Dake said. “But the soldiers who fought over there didn’t get the recognition they deserved. But people are now starting to.”
From July 1987 to July 1990, Dake served as the Director of Joint Training and Doctrine with the Commander in Chief of the United States Atlantic Command.
Promoted to brigadier general in March 1992, Dake’s assignments as a general officer were: Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff of Aviation; Inspector General of the Marine Corps; Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Commanding General, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation.
Dake was advanced to the rank of general and assumed his position as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps on September 5, 1998. He retired on September 7, 2000.
“I’m no hero,” Dake said. “I’m just a guy who did what was asked of him.”
The tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at Highland Springs, also has an Honoring Our Heroes Program in which all military veterans as well as current military, law enforcement and first responders – and their families – receive free admission, food and drinks and a great seat on the 18th green under a covered tent decorated in red, white and blue bunting. Honor Guards from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police Department, Missouri Highway Patrol and the Army National Guard will march the U.S. and Missouri flags to the No. 1 tee box at 7 a.m. every morning. A National Guardsman also will man the flag stick on the 18th green during play Sunday.