Veterans Day 2020 celebrations are likely to be different from previous celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, you can be sure that we Americans will never forget to honor our dedicated veterans who raised their hands solemnly to defend our country and serve honestly and faithfully. Veterans will be honored with parades, ceremonies, free meals, free car washes and the list goes on and on here in the “good ole” United States of America.
As a United States Air Force Veteran, I graciously salute United States Army Victor B. Hodge of Alcoa, Tennessee near the Great Smokey Mountains, who joined the military at age 17!! Victor and his mother, Mrs. Betty Jo Hodge were riding in their car when he saw the large sign, “Uncle Sam Wants You”. Victor told his mother, “stop the car I’m going to go sign up”. His mother tried to convince him not to go for various reasons but Victor was determined and that’s what he did, a matter of fact he enlisted that same day.
Victor became sick when he was in the 6th grade with kidney trouble and later in years, he had total kidney failure. During his school years, it upset him that he couldn’t play any sports. He had to sit on the sidelines to watch. He even had to sit back and watch all his friends join the community motorcycle club known as the Optimus Club who traveled and won many “Parades Best Showing”. Because his friends loved him and he loved them, they allowed him in the motorcycle club even though he didn’t have a motorcycle. He said he still had the best time ever.
In 1978, Victor credits God because he listened when God told him to go the Army and leave Tennessee for Fort Bliss, Texas and then, various other military post and bases. He enjoyed serving his country as a Hercules Missile Crewman in the United States Army as Specialist 4/E5 Sergeant. He said it was an adventures journey because he learned more discipline, respect, and found that he bonded with friends for life. Despite his medical condition, he said it was all worth it, traveling the world, becoming a veteran and learning to do things he never thought he could do before.
After he was medically discharged, he eventually returned to his home in Tennessee. He thanks the Knoxville Dialysis Clinic Inc (DCI) for taking excellent care of him for 38 years. Since then, he continues to serve his community and give back. He couldn’t help but think of past teachers like Mrs. Mary Reese, Mrs. Geraldine Upton, his grandmother and mother and how tremendously they influence him. He felt so strong and emotional talking about these women and said, “They always made you feel like you were the best!!! If it wasn’t for them, where would I be?”
Today, in our community it’s different from when we were growing up. Victor is more passionate about his hometown of Alcoa, Tennessee. It saddens him and me that we no longer have our historical memorable buildings (swimming pool, the basketball courts on the main road, the Commercial Building that had many businesses like the gas station, barber shop, teen center, pool hall, beauty shop, nail shop, record shop, eatery known as the “Sweet Shop” and even a dance hall that our parents use to attend when they were still in school at Charles M. Hall School, (named after an engineer at the Aluminum Company of America – ALCOA) right next to this building.
Those places are no longer there except for the school but it is Alcoa City Health Center now. However, the Houston-Teeter Gymnasium is still there waiting to be utilized and it still looks good after being built in 1926.
Every day, Victor B. sits where the old basketball courts used to be which was about 60 feet from where the Community Commercial Building “the corner” used to be. Now Victor spends his time talking to guys his age and also to the younger generation who want you to listen to them but Victor is so inspiring they end up listening to him, too.
Victor still loves his home and wants to continue to do all he can to lead his community in a positive way while he is assigned here, to this earth. He quickly says he remembers when doctors told him he wouldn’t make it to the age of 12. Well, now at age 61, he knows GOD is still working through him, as he is still doing many things he has a strong desire to do.
Victor will forever be grateful to his beautiful wife, Valeria and his eight children and 15 grandchildren. It seems that Victor has lived a well-rounded life. But on this Veterans Day 2020, I honor you and tell you, Victor B. Hodge, “THANK YOU” for serving your country and community proudly, and making your presence felt through the grace of God, who continues to give you one day at a time. With gratitude, HAPPY VETERANS DAY, VICTOR B. HODGE.
Victor Hodge always thanks Blount County Veterans Affairs for many years of good service to our community – Photo Courtesy of Blount County Veterans Affairs