Even though retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Lou Drawdy lists Jacksonville, Fla. as his place of birth, he will tell you that he came to Owensboro on vacation as a young boy and never left. Judging by the impact he and his wife Linda have had on the Owensboro community and its veterans over the past 35 years, there is no doubt that Owensboro has embraced him as well.
Lou, joined the Marine Corps as an infantryman in 1961, after his senior year at Owensboro High School. He worked as a radio operator in field communications and special communications, and served as a Korean and Persian linguist for the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md. before retiring from the Corps as a Master Sergeant in 1982. Although he is a Vietnam era veteran, Lou said he did not experience some of the anti-war negativity that other Vietnam veterans faced as he was still serving long after the war was over.
While Linda will say that Lou was the first boy she ever dated in junior high, it wasn’t until 1968 that the two reconnected. They were married in April of 1969 and have been “serving together” ever since.
“We never do anything without each other,” Linda said. “When you are a military wife, your life is your husband’s life.”
That life continued even after Lou retired from the Corps. After attending two years of vocational school, Lou began working for RWRA (Regional Water Resource Agency) and remained there for 22 years. During that time, he said he began getting involved with local veterans and veterans organizations, including the VFW and American Legion. He has served in multiple roles and on numerous committees over the years, including treasurer, security officer and Junior Vice Commander.
“One of the things I am most proud of is when we started the Owensboro-Daviess County Veterans Organization Committee in 1987,” Lou said. “It got all of the veterans organizations to work together and talk to each other. There is an appreciation for veterans in Owensboro — it is huge compared to other places.”
While Lou may downplay his role with the ODC Veterans Organization, he has been a mouthpiece for multiple veterans’ issues, including the need for nursing home care and converting military job skills to approved Kentucky state licenses.
“What I enjoy most is just being around veterans,” Lou said. “I’ll drive three hours to have lunch with a Marine anyday. If I can help somebody, that makes it even better.”
One of the most notable roles Lou holds in the community involves the Owensboro-Daviess County Veterans Parade, a role that has recently changed.
“I’ve been lining up the parade since 1987,” Lou said. “I’ve just stepped back — I haven’t stepped down. I’m just going to do one portion, so I can be in the parade too.”
In recent years, Lou and Linda’s signature passion has become Toys for Tots. In 2005, reservist Nick T. Arnold was involved with Toys for Tots, but the nearest program was located in Bowling Green. Since that time, Lou, and fellow Marine Corps veteran Jerry Paul, have served as coordinators, helping to expand Toys for Tots across nine counties. Lou said there were 5,000 children in need of toys in 2018 and Toys for Tots was able to distribute 14,120 toys.
“It’s amazing,” Linda said. “Everybody in Owensboro knows that Lou is Toys for Tots in some capacity. I’m really proud of all he does because that’s who he is.”
Fellow Marine Corps veteran Sheriff Keith Cain was quick to voice his appreciation for the many services Lou and Linda have provided to local veterans and the community over the years.
“Lou served his country honorably for over two decades with the USMC, and he and his wife Linda continue to serve our veterans by assisting them with assessing their needs for the VA (Veterans Affairs),” Cain said. “Lou is also a driving force with the Marines’ Toys for Tots program that ensures every child receives the Christmas they deserve.”
Even after nearly a lifetime of serving his country and his community, Lou responded with his usual humble demeanor.
“We are not amazing,” Lou said. “We’re just blessed.”