SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – “Hard work and dedication, I am now the Grand Marshal for the 2023 Veterans Day Parade… just by chance,” said James Putney.

But some would say it’s not by chance. Putney has spent years pouring into his community in Savannah.

The drive to serve stems back to 1972.

“Went to Fort Jackson for basic training and got to experience the different culture of people I wasn’t familiar with and the different attitude of folk,” Putney said. “And it was up to me to accept those attitudes or just let them go on.”

At just 17 years old, Putney made it through basic training, which allowed him to call a number of places across the globe a temporary home. 

After 20 years of specializing in information technology, he reached his final destination.

“In the end, I retired out of Fort Benning. Because Savannah is home, of all of the places I went … to me there’s no place like home,” Putney said. 

“I felt as though if I was going to succeed or fail, I’d do it at home.”

After retiring from the military, Putney went to work for the county and then got involved in the school PTA.

“I was the first African American male district director in Southeast Georgia, which encompassed 22 counties,” he said. “No man had ever done it before.”

Putney now holds the position of commander for Post 500, the first African American Legion in the state of Georgia. 

He is also a chaplain on the Chatham County Veterans Council.

“I’ve been in the community for a while. I’m not into politics, I’m just into people,” Putney said.

His wife Sabrina has witnessed his work in the community for years.

“Mr. Putney was more deserving of anybody to get the grand marshal,” she said. “He has gone above and beyond.”

“He is a soldier… a soldier.”

Dealing with stage 4 emphysema, it has become difficult for Putney. 

“I know I’m not physical about going as I was three years ago. But I’m still going,” he laughed. “It’s going to take a little bit more than this to stop me. The challenges are real. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. If I’m going to be true to anybody, I’m going to be true to me.”

As Putney went through years of achievements stacked in his garage, he was able to take a step back and finally admire his hard work. 

“I am James Putney the 2023 Veterans Day Parade grand marshal that will be out there,” he said. “So, bless y’all, and I hope to see you all at the parade.”

Savannah’s Veterans Day Parade is set for Saturday, Nov. 11, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Abercorn and Gwinnett streets.