OKEECHOBEE — Born in Wintersville, Ohio, veteran Bernard A. Marker quit school at age 17 to join the Navy. “He had to lie to get in,” said his son, Bernard Jr. “A lot of guys did back then.” He served 20 years active and 10 years inactive. He was stationed in Key West. He served with another Okeechobee resident, Red Bellamy.
During a fishing trip to Okeechobee, he met Carol Jean King, who is a fifth generation Okeechobee girl, and they fell in love and were married while he was on leave. “Peter Raulerson’s brother William was my (not sure how many greats) grandfather, also my great-grandmother’s father was Jeremiah Walker,” said veteran Marker’s son.
He did a tour in Vietnam as a “River Rat” on a mine sweeper. “He loved serving his country and was a very proud sailor, and I was very proud of him,” said his son. He was a boatswainsmate on the aircraft carrier USS JFK, and he was a tugboat captain after Vietnam in Puerto Rico where the family lived for a few years.
While in Vietnam, his unit was on patrol in their minesweeper when they came under fire. A fellow river rat was blown overboard. Without hesitation, he jumped in the river, under fire, and retrieved the soldier. Unfortunately, the soldier didn’t make it.
“My dad brought the war home with him in the form of night terrors that affected my whole family. It was terrifying as a child to be woke up by a grown man, your father, screaming and yelling at people that were not there, then crying when it was over and he realized what he was doing. When he finally got over the terrors, the effects of Agent Orange began to affect him. My father lived a rough life, as did my family, but he had a heart of gold, didn’t know a stranger, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything,” said his son Bernard.
After he was discharged from the Navy, he worked at Florida Steel in Indiantown, followed by a stint at the Hoagie Hut working for Don and Cookie Smith.
“Sadly, later in his life he was taken from us due to complications from Agent Orange. Everyone that knew ‘Bernie’ loved him. He had a huge heart and would give a stranger the shirt off of his back,” said his son Bernard Jr.