Tuscaloosa man receives his Purple Heart 40 years after serving - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Tuscaloosa man receives his Purple Heart 40 years after serving

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John L. Hooks (L) receives his Purple Heart. Source: WBRC video John L. Hooks (L) receives his Purple Heart. Source: WBRC video
TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) -

Forty years after being discharged from service, a Tuscaloosa man received one of the military's highest honors.

John L. Hooks was awarded the Purple Heart Thursday afternoon. Hooks fought in Vietnam and served in the Air Force from 1957 until 1972. He was wounded in action in 1969 but due to a clerical error, he never received the Purple Heart.

In 1969, Hooks was flying as a gunship crew member during the Vietnam War. One day on a run, everything seemed to be going as planned until a firefight broke out.

"We were on the target. We were shooting for our guys on the ground and somebody shot me," said Hooks.

When the plane landed, Hooks put his own injuries on hold.

"He passed on treatment for his wound so that the more serious injuries could be attended too," Lt. Gen. David S. Fadok said.

Hooks still has part of the shrapnel trapped in his arm. It's a wound and a reminder of his service and sacrifice.

"He is an incredibly humble individual, so my guess is while he may have known that he deserved the Purple Heart, he never brought it up," said Fadok.

It wasn't until years later, during a casual conversation, that the subject even came up.

"The individual he was speaking with I think offered to say hey I think we need to correct this," said Hooks' son John.

And that's what led to Thursday's ceremony. In front of his family, friends, and fellow servicemen, Hooks was finally given the honor he so richly deserved. Hooks says he doesn't mind the delay and Thursday's ceremony was well worth the wait.

"Makes me very proud and awful nice to have the general come by. Very nice. Just super," said Hooks. "It was wonderful for me, tremendous honor to be the one to actually award this in recognition of his selfless service and sacrifice," said Fadok.

In addition to three, one-year tours in Vietnam, Hooks' foreign service included time in Germany, England, Libya, Japan and Korea.

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