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Members of 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association advance the colors as part of Fort Sill’s African American/Black History Month celebration on Thursday.

American's story inspires at Sill

After 61 years, the speaker for Fort Sill's celebration of African American/Black History Month made a triumphant return here Thursday as "an American hero."

Retired Air Force Col. Ralph L. Hodge has seen a few career changes since his days as part of the Officer Candidate School cadre.

Col. Michael Dvoracek, commander of the 434th Field Artillery Brigade that hosted the event, introduced Hodge as "a renaissance man."

"It is truly a privilege for me to introduce an amazing guest speaker today," Dvoracek said.

Hodge was a classmate of the founder of Gates Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, Mo. He personally attended Gen. Colin Powell's promotion to colonel when they were classmates at the National War College. He escorted then Vice President George H.W. Bush to Alaska. A job getting pictures for the Smithsonian led to Hodge's working with astronaut Mike Collins, who piloted the command module for Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Hodge enlisted in the Army in 1951 and quickly found himself involved in some of the fiercest fighting in Korea at Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill, where he earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with "V" device for valor, Dvoracek said.

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