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Why I Serve: Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman

By Tam Cummings
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 26, 2004 – "I came from a very patriotic family," explained Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman on why he joined the Army.

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Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman said "being with soldiers and being out there making a difference in the world" is why he serves. Thurman commands the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"When I was just a little guy, I remember going to Memorial Day with my grandfather, a World War I vet, and the whole town would turn out," recalled the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division. "He didn't talk much about being in war, and he didn't ask for medals or recognition. He made me realize early in life that the liberties and freedom we enjoy are not free."

In the northwest corner of Thurman's office, a rubber chicken hangs on a polished wooden plaque. The message is simple: "There ain't no free chicken in the world, you've got to work for stuff."

He said the quote represents a lesson he learned from his grandfather during his upbringing in the rural Oklahoma town of Marietta, population 3,000.

Framed flags, certificates, awards and photographs cover the walls of his office; memorabilia from almost three decades of service to his country.

"There are memories and people attached to everything on these walls," Thurman said recently. "They represent something positive to me, even the rubber chicken.

Thurman's father and three uncles served in World War II and Korea. And Thurman still vividly remembers the day in 1966 when his older brother arrived home from college and told his parents he was leaving school to serve in Vietnam.

"There are values and a sense of duty and responsibility to this country that I was raised with," he said.

"There are 10 divisions in the Army and I have the honor to command one. Being with soldiers and being out there making a difference in the world, that's why I serve. The most precious thing we have are the sons and daughters of this country and I am proud to serve with them."

(Tam Cummings is editor of the Fort Hood, Texas, Sentinel News.)

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