On his 75th birthday, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam Veteran who later became Secretary of Defense.
At 20 years old, the draft board summoned Charles Timothy Hagel. They told him he had six months to either go back to school or join the Army. Hagel decided to volunteer for the draft.
He completed basic training at Fort Bliss and advanced infantry training at Fort Ord. Hagel then went to White Sands Missile Range and trained for two months with the redeye missile. After this he requested to go to Vietnam. Hagel arrived in Vietnam Dec. 4, 1967.
After arriving in Vietnam, Hagel attended jungle school for five days and then served with the 9th Infantry Division. His unit served in the Mekong Delta, near a village called Binh Phouc. During Hagel’s time in this area he was usually on guard duty at night because the Viet Cong would attack with rockets and mortars. Hagel was also often on point duty with his brother, who arrived after Tet and served in the same unit as him. He also performed road sweeps at night to make sure that the roads were open and free of Viet Cong booby traps.
When Tet began, Hagel’s unit soon moved to an ammunition dump, which the Viet Cong blew up when Hagel and his unit arrived. Luckily, Hagel and the rest of the men in his truck were not seriously hurt. Soon after they fought in the Battle of Widow’s Village. The Viet Cong used this village, made up of South Vietnamese widows, for their staging area. Hagel and his unit fought all day to drive the Viet Cong out of the village, losing many officers and senior enlisted. Later, a soldier on point hit a tripwire, causing claymore mines in the trees to explode and injuring Hagel. He received shrapnel to the chest, some of which are still there today. A few months later, his armored personnel carrier hit a bomb, injuring Hagel.
Hagel also spent some time working with the Royal Thai Army. Hagel discharged in December 1968 as a sergeant, after receiving two Purple Hearts.
He started Vanguard Cellular after his discharge, worked as President of the McCarthy Group banking company and as CEO of American Information Systems, Inc. In 1996, the people of Nebraska elected Hagel to the United States Senate, where he served from 1997 until 2009. He served as Secretary of Defense from 2013-2015.
Thank you for your service!
More of his story is at http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.02230/.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Savannah Labbe
Editor: Essence McPherson