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Hooked on Heroes dedicates new memorial to Veterans Park

City and county officials, along with RIVEROAK Tech representatives and other business owners gathered for a photo with Hooked on Heroes members during the unveiling of the new steel soldier silhouette, Tuesday, January 7. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Nearly 40 people gathered at Veterans Park in Live Oak for the dedication, Tuesday. -SVT Photo

By Tami Stevenson

On January 7, 2020, Hooked on Heroes, a non-for-profit organization, dedicated a memorial of a steel silhouette soldier kneeling at a grave at Veterans Park in downtown Live Oak. Many city and county officials along with local business owners and members of the community also attended the dedication.

Hooked on Heroes Director Ron Cadle said it all started when he was there at Veterans Park during an interview with TV20 News a while back. He saw the deterioration of the existing wooden silhouette and asked Gabrielle Redfern, Executive Director for the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for the City of Live Oak, if Hooked on Heroes could replace it. She agreed and they got to work.

BJ Blackmon, owner of A&B Customs in Live Oak and president of Hooked on Heroes, said at the board meeting they talked about creating another wooden silhouette but he knew RIVEROAK Technical College had a CNC plasma cutter so the idea of a steel silhouette was born. They contacted the college and got the ball rolling.

RIVEROAK Director Mary Keen along with TJ Vickers and welding instructor Kevin Mercer also attended the dedication. Mercer, along with electrical instructor Jeremy Ulmer and students had the 4’ x 8’ sheet of quarter inch steel cut out in about 15 minutes after programming the machine for the artwork. Ron Cadle said he couldn’t believe how fast they got it done.

“I just left Live Oak after dropping it off and they called and said it was done,” said Cadle.

Mercer said, “It’s a really good machine. It takes a little bit to learn, there are a lot of steps to it.” He said they want to implement it into the program for students that are above and beyond in their welding or electrical and get them started on the CNC machine. “There are schools that just teach this. You can start out at about $20 hr. just because you know how to run this machine,” Mercer added.

RIVEROAK officials, left, along with Hooked on Heroes members on the right.

After receiving the soldier silhouette from RIVEROAK, Gene McCook welded metal brackets on the back to reinforce it, also giving them the ability to mount it onto a steel post instead of a wooden post.

The soldier was not quite finished. They contacted Rob Thon, owner of Trendsetters Car Stereo and Powder Coating in Live Oak to see if he could put the finishing touches on it by powder coating it in black. Thon agreed and went to work.

“It weighed quite a bit. The process was not difficult, just time consuming,” said Thon by phone. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend the dedication due to a prior engagement but was happy to explain the process it went through.

The silhouette, he said, first had to be sand blasted and wiped down with alcohol, then baked at 450 degrees to bake off any oils or residue. It is a process called “outgassing.” Once cooled completely they coated it with powder coat, then it was back in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. It cured during the cooling process and in approximately 4 to 5 hours the silhouette soldier was good to go. Thon added how much they appreciate the Hooked on Heroes organization.

He and a number of his family members get involved and donate their time and their boats to take veterans fishing every year.

Ron Cadle, Hooked on Heroes founder, speaking during the dedication. -SVT Photo

Live Oak Mayor Frank Davis speaking during the dedication.
-SVT Photo

Suw. Commissioner Ricky Gamble speaking during the dedication. -SVT Photo

Suw. Commission Vice Chair Don Hale speaking during the dedication. -SVT Photo

Sheriff Sam St. John speaking during the dedication.
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Dedicated to Veterans Park in Live Oak. Constructed of steel and powder coated, this silhouette of a soldier kneeling at a grave will last for many years to come. -SVT Photo

Live Oak Mayor Frank Davis spoke and thanked Ron and Carole Cadle and the Hooked on Heroes organization for all they do for veterans and recognized RIVEROAK and Trendsetters for their generosity. During his speech he said,

“This is a beautiful park. I want to thank the city who spruced the park up for this dedication. A city needs parks. This (Veterans Park) is special because it is dedicated to one of the great causes that distinguishes America and that is the freedoms we are provided by the great men and women who have served in the military and have served to make us free.”

Suwannee Commissioner Ricky Gamble said since his first fishing trip with the organization five years ago, he was hooked and has been involved every year since. He talked about how he had seen the organization grow from around 60 to 70 veterans going out fishing to nearly 200.

“If you haven’t been to one of their events, it’s awesome. But not only are they taking veterans fishing, they are giving back to the community. You’ll see them at festivals setting up their tent raising funds for their cause. This is a great organization to donate to and be a part of. They use every bit of it to take veterans fishing.”

Suwannee Commissioner Vice Chair Don Hale wanted to echo Gamble’s appreciation. He has also been a part of the fishing trips. “In the end, I was the one rewarded for being a part. We can’t forget our veterans. That’s why we have the freedoms that we have and I appreciate you guys.”

Sheriff Sam St John, who is faithful in helping Hooked on Heroes by serving veterans chicken dinners out of his 60 gallon sugar kettle at their events, spoke about how rewarding it is to be involved in an organization like Hooked on Heroes.

“When we cook at Steinhatchee it really warms our hearts when you see all the veterans come in after their fishing trip and they are all excited from the fish they caught and then we feed them a big meal. Its really worth it to see the smile on their faces,” St. John said.

On behalf of district 10 Representative Chuck Brannon, District Aid Dan Hartley attended the dedication and spoke a few words of appreciation for veterans and the importance of recognizing them as heroes.

During the dedication Ron Cadle thanked everyone for their involvement and for attending the dedication. He was glad to have a steel structure instead of a wooden one.

“It’s sure going to outlast me, I know that,” he laughed.

At the dedication there was also talk of plans for a steel soldier silhouette going in at the Veterans Cemetery in Live Oak.

Anyone wanting to donate, or find out more about the non-profit organization, that takes veterans fishing, or other ways to help their cause can call Ron Cadle at 386-364-9589, or visit their web page at, or find them on Facebook.