SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — Lt. Col. Buddy Merrick (Ret.) was named as the latest Texoma Hero Friday for his 35 years of United States military service and for his volunteer work.

"The moment you put on that uniform, you then say, 'I'm here, and I'm willing to keep this country free,'" he said.

Merrick enlisted in the Navy at age 18 with his best friend from high school. He served as a pilot during the Cuban missile crisis.

"Scary, scary time," he said. "We had no idea how that was going to turn out. We had a big presence, and that Navy was a big presence out there. And all those helicopters, and all those ships, and all those men was the deterrent that former presidents have talked about."

Following his tour in the Navy, Merrick shifted services at age 39 and became a captain in the Army.

"We live in a great country... of the people, by the people, for the people," he said. "There's no other country in the world that has that, and I was rewarded on Day One. When you put the uniform on, something very special happens."

On Friday, Merrick was recognized as a Texoma Hero for his great service to the U.S. military and to Texoma.

"I realized early on that it wasn't Buddy Merrick that they were honoring... it was 20 million men and women who put on the uniform of the United States military," he said."

Allan Jacobs endorsed his friend as worthy of recognition.

"Incredible man and honest integrity," said Jacobs said. "Serving others, and very selfless, and always giving to others, and loves the Lord, and always leading people to the Lord."