METAMORA, Ill.– From being drafted in 1962, to laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2019, a Purple Heart recipient from Central Illinois says his service helped him grow in more ways than one.
Ahead of this Veteran’s Day, First Calvary Veteran Jay Hockenbury shares his experience from Washington D.C.
It’s an honor and privilege held in high esteem that Hockenbury never imagined he’d have.
“I’m very proud of Illinois,” said Hockenbury. “I was born in Washburn and raised in Metamora and grew up in Vietnam.”
During a trip out east to visit some fellow veterans this September, Hockenbury was was selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He said being selected not only brings honor back to Central Illinois, it brings closure to the loss he carries with him from the service.
Being in the service and losing so many of my friends in November In ’65, it was… it was just… I couldn’t have asked for anything that would be… it was the highlight of my life.
Hockenbury was a medic in the military. He’s a decorated veteran and he always makes the effort to visit Washington D.C. to pay tribute to the brothers he lost.
“I visit three east, the plaque,” said Hockenbury. “And from top to the bottom, there’s all people that I knew.”
Due to health reasons, Jay’s wife Carol stayed back in Metamora this time, but he wasn’t alone during his during his symbolic quest.
“My daughter and her husband, and nieces and nephews all came from the surrounding area to see it and it was just awesome,” said Hockenbury.
On that September day, Hockenbury was able to pay his formal respects to his fallen brothers and also to members of the United State’s Armed Forces, a day he’ll carry with him forever.