Terry Wilkerson loves America.
As loyal as he is to the U.S., Wilkerson never has felt the need to wrap himself in the American flag to prove his loyalty and affection for this country.
But on this Fourth of July, the former Marine wants everyone to know — and see — how much he loves America and one of its most recognized and cherished symbols.
That's why he plans to unveil the customized graphic wrap on his sleek boat on Independence Day. The 32-foot cabin cruiser is wrapped in an American flag, stars and stripes stretching from bow to stern.
Last month, Wilkerson, 68, was talking with a friend, Nika Williams, about altering the plain white paint job on the boat. Williams, who also is a former Marine, is a graphic artist.
He immediately set to work, scanning photographs of the boat into a computer and playing with designs. In less than 30 minutes, he came up with a design he thought Wilkerson would like.
“It was the American flag wrapped all around my boat,” Wilkerson said.
He was sold. Williams' vision was perfect.
Last week, Wilkerson got a first look at his “new” boat at Williams' shop, Rock Star Graphics, in Oklahoma City. About 90 percent of the work is done; all that's left is a little trimming and changing out some red stripes so the color is consistent.
Seeing it, Wilkerson pumped his arm and growled the Marine Corps motto, “Semper fi.”
With a little luck, the final adjustments to the wrap will be completed in time for Wilkerson, who wants “to create a little patriotism around our lakes,” to launch his boat Monday at Lake Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma.
“You can't have too much patriotism,” he said.
Wilkerson is a native Oklahoman, born in Shawnee but raised in Duncan. He learned his love of country from his parents and grandparents.
He said he feels an obligation to honor the legions of warriors who have sacrificed to keep the nation free — particularly a Marine force reconnaissance unit from New Mexico with whom he trained in 1964.
The unit deployed to Vietnam. Ninety-five of the 125 men died in battle.
Wilkerson already is anticipating the thrill he will get from other boaters turning their heads and casting their eyes at his boat.
But he wants them to notice the flag more than the boat. It's difficult not to notice both.
He doesn't expect people to salute as he passes, but he wants the colorful design make people who see it think about this “great country they live in.”
While other boaters may be staring at Wilkerson and his cruiser, his main desire is for people to never lose sight of the “wonderful and many” liberties we have in America,” he said.
Each time he takes his boat out of its slip at Duchess Creek Marina, he said, “it will create chills up and down my spine.”
Wilkerson hopes his boat's new look affects others the same way.