During National African American History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran William VanHooks Jr., who served 22 years.
William VanHooks Jr grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, during the Civil Rights Movement. VanHooks was in Memphis when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his more prominent speeches. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the reasons why VanHooks decided to join the Army because he lead by example. The other significant reason for VanHooks’ enlistment was the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, which VanHooks was involved in during high school. As soon as he graduated, VanHooks enlisted into the Army with the infantry.
VanHooks first went to Fort Jackson in South Carolina to go through basic training, which he described as “pure hell.” After basic training, VanHooks went to Fort Polk in Louisiana to go through infantry training. While there, he went through much testing to see where he would fit best. VanHooks was soon put into a squad. Some had experience with Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps. Together, the squad went to Fort Hood, Texas. While in Fort Hood, VanHooks and his squad joined with the 75th Ranger Battalion, a battalion filled with men who, as VanHooks said, “eat and sleep war.”
VanHooks soon shipped out to Germany. Germany was in a tenuous position; the Berlin Wall was still standing, and the Soviets were on the other side of the border in both East Berlin and East Germany. VanHooks joined the 3rd Infantry Brigade. He went on three tours in Germany with the Army and was there with his little brother the day the Berlin Wall came down. VanHooks remembers the change that happened in Europe when the wall came down.
“You could feel the gloom coming off,” he said.
On his third tour in Germany, VanHooks worked at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While at NATO, VanHooks worked with the other member nations and other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
VanHooks retired from the military in 1995 to be closer to his children. However, he never stopped being involved with the Army and became involved with his local Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He wanted to give back to the program that got him started and help teach today’s youth to be leaders. For his military career, VanHooks received a Meritorious Service Medal.
Find out more about VanHooks’ service at http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.02892.
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