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Kenneth Jordan named Korean War grand marshal for Phoenix Veteran's Day Parade

Kenneth Jordan of Wickenburg, Ariz., will be the Korean War grand marshall of Phoenix's 2013 Veteran's Day Parade. (Photo by Bob McClay/KTAR)

Over the next week-and-a-half KTAR will be introducing and profiling the Grand Marshals for this year's Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix.

WICKENBURG, Ariz. -- KTAR continues to introduce you to the grand marshals of this year's Veteran's Day Parade in Phoenix.

One of them is 80-year-old Kenneth Jordan of Wickenburg, Ariz., who served in post-World War II Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Okinawa and other places during his 25-year Army career.

Jordan was born in Kansas, the son of a military veteran.

"I enjoyed listening to my dad talking about the first World War," he said. "Of course, there was no television back then, so I enjoyed watching the newsreels of (what was happening) in World War II that they showed every time you went to the movies."

He knew at an early age that he wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps.

"I couldn't wait to go into the military," said Jordan. "I just couldn't wait."

His first attempt came when he doctored his birth certificate and tried to join at the age of 12. The Army rejected him because of his age. Two years later, he succeeded and was able to join the Army.

When the Korean War started two years later, the 16-year-old Jordan was awarded his first Combat Infantry Badge (CIB). He had to leave the Army after his mother contacted her Congressman and had Jordan discharged because she didn't want him in battle.

At the age of 17, he persuaded his mother to let him re-enlist by promising her that he would not go to Korea.

Once in the Army, the promise didn't last long.

One of Jordan's fellow soldiers was ordered to Korea right after getting married, so Jordan volunteered to go in his place. He was sent as a forward observer in the Korean War and earned his second CIB.

Meanwhile, back at home, his mom went to church every day -- rain or shine -- praying for her son's safe return.

Jordan said his mom never forgave him for breaking the promise. But he also admits that she was awfully proud of both he and his brother, who was a World War II veteran.

Jordan's battles in Korea and Vietnam have also earned him the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and numerous other citations and awards.

He said he has a lot of memories, including some he doesn't like to talk about.

When asked whether he has ever killed anyone in combat, Jordan remembers a recruiter being asked that same question in a classroom filled with people several years ago.

The recruiter's answer was, "I aimed my rifle and I fired."

Jordan repeated that answer but wouldn't say what happened after that.

Jordan said he has a lot of great memories of "buddies" that he served with. But one he remembered brought tears to his eyes.

"The last time I saw my buddy Carl Gross, we tore a dollar bill together," Jordan said. "He kept one half, and I kept the other half, and said, 'We will meet again.'"

They never did. Gross was later killed in a firefight in Korea. After the war, Jordan went to Gross' grave site in Texas.

"I took my half of the dollar, which I had kept all of that time, and a I dug a hole, and put it in the dirt on top of his grave," said Jordan.

The two men are linked by the names of two streets that intersect right near the cemetery where Gross is buried.

"His last name was Gross, and my name is Jordan, and the [two streets with those names] t-bone together, of all things," he said.

Jordan retired from the military in 1973. He later spent 25 years working for the U.S. Post Office. He was secretly nominated by his wife Linda to be a grand marshal in the Phoenix Veteran's Day Parade during the KTAR Honor our Heroes campaign.

He had no idea that she had nominated him until he got a phone call telling him that he had won. Jordan said he reacted with a little love for his wife.

"Of course, I gave her a real big kiss, naturally," Jordan joked. "I'm a pretty affectionate guy, even at my age."

Jordan noted it is important to honor veterans.

"Never, ever should we forget them from Bunker Hill to present day and beyond, until God Almighty puts an end to wars and conflicts," he said.

Jordan regrets that that his mother and father have passed away, and that they are not around to see him in the parade. He is humbled by the honor of serving as one of the grand marshals.

"I feel that all of these awards and accolades that are given to me, all of these things that have happened to this man are just unbelievable," Jordan said. "Me, a kid that, more or less, ran away from home and forged his birth certificate. (For) these kind of awards, I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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