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Glenn Hess – serving then, serving now

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Glenn Hess – serving then, serving now

Glenn Hess is the 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney.  He has had an active law practice and served as a judge prior to his tenure as the State Attorney for our five county circuit.  Hess graduated from high school and went to work at Jersey Shore as a lifeguard for the summer.  When he returned home, he wanted to enlist in the Navy to be a diver. That didn’t immediately happen so he went to work at the steel mill and within a week, he knew he wanted more.  Below is Hess’s story in his own words of his tenure in the Army, serving his country, including his son’s career ending injury many years later.

“I enlisted in the Army in 1966. I had just gotten out of high school.  I went to the Jersey shore to work as a lifeguard for the summer.  When I finished that, I went to the Navy recruiter.  I wanted to be a diver. But they would not guarantee that I could go to dive school so I didn’t enlist with the Navy.  The Marines tried to enlist me but they were lying through their teeth.  They were the only recruiters there.  The Air Force and the Coast Guard were not recruiting.   So I went home and got a job at the steel mill.  About a week after I started to work, I get a post card from the Army recruiter in another town. It was a beautiful color picture of a Huey helicopter.  It said, ‘Glenn, you may qualify to fly these.  Come see me.’  

As it turns out, I knew his son.  The next day off I had, I went down to visit him. And he said since I had done very well on the Armed Forces Qualifications test for your draft, that if I could pass five tests they would offer me, and they would guarantee that I could go to flight school.  He said they would sign a contract.  So each Wednesday for five weeks, I would ride to training in Philadelphia and take a test.  On Friday, he would call and say you passed.  I get another train ticket on Monday and then on Wednesday, I’d go take another test.  Finally he said, ‘Okay you’ve passed and I’ll sign a contract guaranteeing you can go to flight school, said I could go to flight school after basic training.  So the day after Thanksgiving, I signed my contract and then January 25, 1967, I went in the army.  I went to Fort Polk, Louisiana and after that I went to Fort Walters, Texas where I went to flight school.   I finished up at Fort Rucker in March of 1968.  I graduated and I was in Vietnam by the end of the month.  My 20th birthday was March 8 and I was in Vietnam less than three weeks later.  I got to Vietnam and I was in the First Calvary Division.  I was in the Attack Air Company, and that’s what I did for the first six months I was there.  We would fly troops into combat.  And then my last six months, I volunteered to go fly scout helicopters.  I did that until I was shot on February 8, 1969.  It wasn’t a bad wound.  It was okay.  I came home and finished up my two years in the Army at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Hunter Army Field in Savannah, Georgia. When I finished that, I came home and went to College.  I was in the Army Reserve while I was in college at Auburn.  For two and a half years, I flew Medivac helicopters.  When I went to law school, I did not have enough time to stay current, so I had to resign from the Guard.” 

Hess was asked what was memorable about his time in the Army, what stood out still today.  His reply was shattering. “I tell people that it seemed like in Vietnam, I lived in a circle of death.  One night, there was a unit that had been in serious combat all day and it was so intense they couldn’t even resupply them.  So they had a plan that they were going to take three helicopters and they would put supplies on a sling between the helicopters so you didn’t have to land.  The plan was you just go out there and drop them. So they sent us out to resupply them.  I was the second shift.  The first shift had gone in and was dropping off his load and a rocket hit theship and blew it up.  The guy who slept on the left of me was killed and the guy who slept on the right of me was killed.  It was then my turn to go in.  That was one.  When I was a scout pilot my platoon leader was killed and his whole platoon was killed.  In January of 1969, my platoon leader got shot in the buttocks as Forest Gump would say.   I was shot in February of 1969 and my replacement was killed in July of 1969.  So it’s all around me.  I was just very fortunate that I had a family that prayed and a church that prayed and I’m sure that had something to do with me getting out of there alive.  That was a time when I was very, very young.  When we got to Cameron Bay, we had all been in Flight school together.  We were a tight knit group of guys and some guys went north and some guys went south and we all said, ‘Hey we will see you back here next March.’  Well when I got back to Cameron Bay, I said, ‘Where’s Pappy?’  And they said, ‘Didn’t you hear?  Pappy didn’t make it, he got killed.’  I said, ‘How about Hoolidge?’  Again, ‘He got killed the first 30 days he was there.’  Only then did I start to realize about who was left in my flight school, the guys had been killed flying helicopters.  And it was a very sobering time for me.  I said to myself the circle of death keeps coming closer.”

Hess leaves no doubt serving his country was what he wanted to do and needed to do.  So much so that his son must have inherited some of his patriotism.  At the age of 10, Carter Hess knew he was going to serve his country.  Glenn Hess tells of his son’s time in the Army. “Carter has always been just as tough as they come.  He was ten years old on 9/11 and I was a judge at the time. That day I was going to Gulf County.  I was riding my motorcycle and Carter was at school and every day I would pick him up at 4 o’clock so we could go home.  And as I was going to Gulf County I was listening on the radio about the plane and when I got to Gulf County they told me a second airplane had hit and everything.  So when I went to pick Carter up, he knew something bad had happened on that day.  He wanted me to give him perspective and I talked to him about it a little bit and we got on the bike.  I went to the blood bank on 23rd street and I was going to give blood. But when I got there, the line was out the door and all the way down the sidewalk.  We stopped and Carter said, ‘Why are all those people standing in line.’   And I said, ‘Carter they are here to give blood. A lot of people were killed in New York today, a lot of people were injured.  They can’t go to New York to help but they are going to send blood.  That’s what Americans do.’ And as we were leaving I could see in my rear view mirror that Carter was just looking at those people.  We went home and he watched on the news like everybody else and we saw pictures of the people jumping to their death.  I could see Carter wasn’t saying much but he was getting angry and from then on he didn’t make a big deal out of it but he said, ‘I am going in the Army.’  When he was in high school, he was the starting catcher for the Arnold baseball team.  He completed his course work in December.  His 18th birthday was in January, and he wanted to sign up to go in the Army on his birthday. So he forewent his senior year of playing baseball so that he could go in the Army.  He wanted to be Airborne and he wanted to be a Ranger.  And that’s what Carter did.  When he was blown up, he was on orders to report to a Ranger Battalion in Hawaii.  And he was scheduled to come back from Afghanistan and take a week off before going to Hawaii to join that Ranger Battalion which is what he wanted.  But when he lost his leg that was the end of all of that.  Carter doesn’t talk about it much. The way I found out about that he had lost his leg was it was a Friday afternoon.  I was driving my car from the county office back to my office and got a call.  On my phone it said private and the only people that call me that say private are the governor and the sheriff so I answered the phone. And it was Carter and he said, ‘Hey pops, how’s it going?’  We hadn’t talked in 30 days because he was out on a mission.  And so I said, ‘Good Carter, how are you?’  And he said, “Well Pops, I lost my leg.’  I said, ‘Carter’!   He said, ‘Look dad, I just got out of surgery.  Talk to this lady.’  He gave the phone to this nurse it was her phone and she started telling me about his injury and that he was in the recovery room.  So I said, ‘Mam I am not really good about asking the questions but my wife is and so I said would you call this number in one hour and talk to her and she said yes.   So I went to the office and told my secretary and I went home .  The lady called again and told my wife all those things and she said the army will be contacting you and sure enough we got a call late Saturday from the Army. Then on Sunday I got a phone call from Governor Scott. The Army had told us that they didn’t know if Carter would be going to Walter Reed or to Texas to a facility in Texas.  I wanted Carter at Walter Reed because all of his people were at Walter Reed.  Carter was a sergeant.  And Carter went to Walter Reed.”

The Jackson County Times commends Glenn and Carter Hess on their service to our country.

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