A Chili’s on Fort Hood?, I thought to myself as I drove onto Fort Hood last week for the first time in 16 years. Why couldn’t they have had that when I was stationed here?
The chain restaurant was one of many changes on post I noticed.
I was invited to “The Great Place” for a 1st Cavalry Division ceremony last Wednesday honoring volunteers and retirees. Two sergeants first class, Levi Green and Anthony Maurice Adams, were honored for their Army careers that spanned more than 20 years, and more than 50 volunteers from throughout the division were recognized for their service.
The ceremony was complete with a 1st Cavalry charge from the horse detachment, music from the division band and speeches from the command.
It was nothing I hadn’t seen before, but it was my first time to see it with civilian eyes. As I watched the ceremony, I couldn’t help but glance across the street from Cooper Field at my old barracks.
I pointed them out to the man who invited me to the day’s ceremony, Lt. Col. Kirk Luedeke, the division’s public affairs officer.
“The last stack on the right,” I said, indicating the ordinary-looking barracks across the street. They are close enough to Cooper Field that the sights of a 1st Cav ceremony, and especially the sounds of the bugle calls and pistol gunfire, were things I heard regularly back in the day. I marched in a handful of parades on that field, too.
Some things about the Army don’t change. But plenty of things do: uniforms, people, missions and the tools of war.
I didn’t go inside, but I could tell my old barracks had undergone quite an extensive makeover since I lived in them, from 1994 to 1996. The old “duck pond” was replaced with a glass doorway, and all the walls looked to have been rebuilt.
The entire post seemed to have gone through a makeover since the last time I was here. Many of the old, white, two-story wooden buildings from the World War II era were gone, new buildings were up and others were redesigned.
Getting onto Fort Hood was a little different than it used to be. Back in the ’90s, it was an open post; anyone could just drive through. Not so easy these days.
Overall traffic on the fort seemed busier, but truth be told, when you live in the barracks and just have to walk to work every day, you don’t really think about traffic too much. And I know there were traffic jams on post back in the ‘90s, just as there are today.
Looking back, the Army —and Fort Hood — was a huge part of my life. I learned lessons and skills that stick with me to this day.
I was a young pup, 17 years old, when I joined the Army, and I had to convince my parents to sign that dotted line, too. When I finished my enlistment, I was still a young pup at 20 years old — a veteran with the rest of my life ahead of me. As was my plan, I did one enlistment then got out to attend school using the GI Bill and Army College Fund.
Now, I’m 36 with years of experience working in newspapers, and a wife and child at home. That said, I’m also back to driving the streets of Killeen and the State Highway 195 corridor; how things change, how things stay the same.
Luedeke already knew I was an old 1st Cav soldier when I meet him at the ceremony last Wednesday.
“Welcome home,” he said. And he meant it.
Well, enough about me.
Now I need to get to work telling the stories about the Fort Hood area. Please give me a call or send me an email about any story ideas, and thanks for reading.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the metro editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.