Bronze Star recipient is parade grand marshal

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

Each year, Christmas decorations include the Christmas star.This year’s Brookhaven Christmas Parade will honor a man who isdecorated with a star of his own.

This year’s grand marshal for the parade is Chief Petty OfficerBrian S. McGee, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, received theBronze Star for actions in Iraq in which he helped capturehigh-ranking al-Qaeda militants, train Iraqi Army personnel andsave the lives of fellow Americans and Iraqi soldiers andcivilians.

“Brian came through Alexander Junior High School years ago whenI was the assistant principal – I’ve known him and his familyforever,” said Parade Chairman Rita Rich. “He loves the military,he loves that life, he loves to serve his country, and that’s whyhe’s made a career of it.”

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The Christmas Parade takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3,with the Fire Brigade starting at 6:45 p.m.

Rich said the theme of this year’s parade, “Onward,” which isactually a shortening of the phrase “Onward Christian Soldiers,” isa tribute not only to McGee, but to the men and women of themilitary past, present and future.

“We’re proud to honor him in this way,” she said. “We’re proudof all the men and women that serve our country.”

McGee, who wore a 2004 Brookhaven High School state championshipT-shirt under his uniform and body armor during much of his tour inIraq, was a part of more than 30 operations, leading raids,fighting in battle, neutralizing explosive devices and trainingIraqi soldiers. He also served as an adviser and leader for IraqiArmy units, as well as being attached to Army Special Forceselements while he was on tour from December 2007 to December2008.

Army officials said McGee’s service was “nothing short ofexemplary,” and awarded him the Bronze Star for several acts.McGee’s units captured approximately 100 insurgents, including twoHigh Value Targets; destroyed dozens of weapons caches, explosivedevices and enemy vehicles; and cleared and patrolled villagesalmost daily. McGee even personally stopped a suicide vehicle bymanning a machine gun at the rear of his unit’s advance.

He also served as a Navy corpsman, where he worked to savelives. As a medical adviser to Iraqi Army units, McGee developed aTrauma Combat Casualty Care training course and instructed morethan 50 Iraqi medics.

McGee is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Rich said hishigher-ups are letting him come home for the honor.

“His commanding officer has given him time off,” said Rich, whoadded that she had tried to add one more finishing touch to theparade in McGee’s honor.

“I called the Navy band and tried to get them scheduled,” shesaid. “Unfortunately they couldn’t come this year.”