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Voices of our Veterans: Don Hawkins


Don Hawkins spent nearly 37 years serving his country but he didn’t always plan to enter the service:

“What made me first decide to join the military was I had two close friends and we were at church one Sunday and they said, ‘Hey we’re going to join the Tennessee national guard tomorrow, why don’t you come with us?,’” says Don Hawkins.

So, don decided "why not?" and went with his friends to take the entry exam

“A couple of days later they called me and said you’re the only one that passed the test, you’ll be shipping on February the 7th.”

That was December 1960.By February of '61. Don was leaving for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina

He ended up holding several different positions in the army, including Brigadier general.

During the cold war with the Soviet Union, don posed as a tourist for an undercover job.

“I spent quite a bit of time traveling all over western Europe preparing what we call battle books… making photographs, measuring roads, coming up with routes of exactly how we would deploy US troops should the soviet or communist blocked countries come across the border and invade Germany and western Europe,” Hawkins says.

By 1993, Don Hawkins was selected as a candidate for a general officer:

“I had also finished my college degree so I had all of the qualifications to become a general officer, so I passed the board and at that time President Clinton was in office, so he submitted my name to the senate to be a general officer,” says Hawkins.

He received senate confirmation in 1994, was promoted to brigadier general, and served as the commander of the 30th separate armor brigade in Jackson, TN.

Hawkins says, “I considered myself a soldier's general…I cared for my soldiers, and I took good care of them and I think that’s one reason I was so successful in the various commands I had.”

When he was promoted to brigadier general, don was given some momentos he still cherishes today,

“A US flag and the general officer flag, which mine brigadier general one-star…that’s why general officers are called flag officers because they all have flags,” says Hawkins.

They also presented Hawkins with the sidearm weapon that the US Army used at that time, the M9 Beretta.

Hawkins, “This pistol is assigned to me personally by the department of the army…when I separated and discharged from the service, they gave me the option of purchasing this, which I did….at what the government cost was when they issued it to me which happened to be 300 and 34 dollars. I don’t know what one of these would sell for today."

General Hawkins once commanded 4500 soldiers and when his brigade was eventually disbanded he helped his men find new jobs.

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