Face of Defense: General’s Son Pursues Same Path
By Army Spc. Brandon Babbitt
TOLEDO, Ohio, July 8, 2010 The O’Connor family from northwestern Ohio prides itself on spirituality and hard work, while giving back to their community.
Army Brig. Gen. John “Jack” O’Connor stands for a photo with his parents after his promotion to brigadier general at MacDill Air Force Base, near his parents’ home in Tampa, Fla. The O’Connors, natives of Toledo, Ohio, taught their children by example the importance of giving back to their community. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Babbitt
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Brig. Gen. John “Jack” O’Connor, commanding general of Army Materiel Command Southwest Asia and director of logistics for 3rd Army, grew up in a tight-knit family as the youngest of six children.
In 1977, O’Connor accompanied his parents as they retired to Florida and finished high school there. After graduating, he enrolled in the University of Miami, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1984 and completed the ROTC program, earning his Army commission as a second lieutenant transportation officer.
“It was hard to leave my home and that support system I had around me in Toledo,” O’Connor said. “Even though I was not a seasoned military brat like my kids, with over 10 moves under their belt, the move to Florida as a teenager was an opportunity to spread my wings and gain some early independence while getting a great education.”
O’Connor and his wife, Andree, have two children together: a son, Ryan, 18, and a daughter, Meryl, 16.
Ryan recently graduated from high school in the local community outside of Fort Eustis, Va., and now is headed to Ohio to attend the University of Toledo.
“My brother, Bill, a Navy submarine veteran, lives in Toledo, and has always played a big part in Ryan’s life as his godfather and a mentor to him,” O’Connor said. “As a father, I feel very comfortable with my son going back to my hometown, because I know he will have a lot of people there who care about him and will introduce him to that great Midwest living and culture.”
O’Connor’s son will be in the ROTC program at the university, and plans to follow in his father’s military footsteps as he seeks the same brotherhood and camaraderie the Army has provided the senior O’Connor for more than 26 years.
Toledo seems to have something going for it when it comes to producing general officers. Two friends and colleagues of General O’Connor -- Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert H. McMahon, director of the U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Center, and Army Maj. Gen. James Rogers, commanding general of 1st Theater Sustainment Command -- also hail from Toledo.
“What are the odds that three generals, all from Toledo, would be serving forward at Camp Arifjan [in Kuwait] at the same time?” O’Connor asked with a chuckle.
“When I met my wife, while we were both working in Germany in 1987, we married the same year after four months of dating,” O’Connor said. “My boss at the time, retired Maj. Gen. Tom Arwood, was my best man. I was a first lieutenant at the time, and yes, the general was from Toledo too. So my general officer connection to the Glass City goes way back.”
O’Connor said he believes his strong Midwest values are a direct result of a cultural upbringing in an environment of teamwork and commitment. He also is reminded of the importance of service to nation as he looks across his family and thinks of those who have served or are serving in the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.
O’Connor credits his parents -- William II, a World War II Navy veteran and career fireman, and Betty Jane, a career nurse -- for the family’s commitment to give back to their communities and work in the public sector.
“I really owe it to my mom and dad for always instilling in us the importance of giving back and to do things for the greater good,” the general said. “I am very proud that my son is following in these very footsteps. It makes me feel like the important things my parents taught me are being handed down to the next generation.”