By Rose L. Thayer
Fort Hood Herald
People began lining up just after 7 a.m. to get the chance to meet Colin Powell Friday at the Clear Creek Main Exchange.
When the retired four-star Army general and former secretary of state arrived for the event four hours later, 400 people were eagerly waiting, gripping copies of Powell's latest book, "It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership" (Harper, $27.99).
One of the first people in line was Copperas Cove resident Franklin Gilmore, a retired Army sergeant major who served in Vietnam, as did Powell.
"I want to get this book signed in particular," he said of Powell's second memoir. "It's very interesting because he tells it like it is without stepping on any toes."
Gilmore said he has always respected Powell as a leader, beginning with the way he took care of soldiers as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the Persian Gulf War.
"He came up through the ranks and earned everything he got," said Gilmore. "He cares about this country, and what he really cared about when he served in the military was the soldiers."
Powell is one of the many big names in politics the Army and Air Force Exchange Service has brought to Fort Hood. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary, also have stopped at the exchange during book tours in recent years.
"It's just an honor to have somebody of this stature here and willing to meet our customers," said Cathy Orona, store manager. "It's just a benefit to the Fort Hood community."
Powell's last visit to Fort Hood was in 1989, as then-head of U.S. Army Forces Command.
Better medical care for soldiers, Powell says
In an interview prior to his arrival, Powell said the military had made leaps and bounds in taking care of soldiers and families since that time.
"I'm so proud going to posts now and seeing the kinds of day cares and hospitals we have," he said. "We've done a marvelous job of building facilities over the last 30 years."
Sgt. Adam Nelson, 13th Financial Management Group, waited several hours to ensure he got his book signed.
"I wish I could have served under the general," said Nelson. "He's an outstanding leader and to say I met him is a great honor."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.