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New education center name steeped in history

Medal of Honor recipient John Hawk embraced education

Medal of Honor recipients Joe Jackson, Wilburn Ross, Bruce Crandall and Leroy Petry, from left, flank the plaque honoring fellow Medal of Honor recipient John “Bud” Hawk during the 2011 dedication of the education center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The John "Bud" Hawk Education Center is a building with a history.

"His life personifies the values of education and dedication to service," said Col. Thomas Brittain, then commander, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), to an audience that included local dignitaries and four Medal of Honor recipients at the center's dedication ceremony in 2011.

Medal of Honor recipients Wilburn Ross, Joe Jackson, Leroy Petry and Bruce Crandall attended to honor Hawk.

Had he felt up to attending, Hawk would have been the fifth Medal of Honor recipient in the room. Hawk died in 2013.

Located in building 11577 at 41st Division Drive and C Street, the 31,000 square foot center features eight multi-purpose classrooms, one computer classroom and a 165-seat auditorium.  It is the third education center at JBLM.

It also holds the history of commitment that characterizes Hawk's service as a soldier and an educator.

During a German counterattack on August 20, 1944 near Chambois, France, Sgt. Hawk directed fire that caused the German forces to withdraw.  Suffering a leg wound when his machine gun was hit by an artillery round, Hawk and another soldier stalked the Germans and forced them to retreat to a wooded area.

At one point, a wounded Hawk reorganized two machine gun squads and, in the face of intense enemy fire, directed the assembly of one workable weapon from other two damaged guns.

Using tanks to attack, the Germans attempted to again break through.  American tank destroyers were ineffective until Hawk climbed to an exposed position to serve as an aiming stake for the destroyers.

Due to the noise of battle, Hawk twice ran back to the destroyers to correct their range.  Not only did his actions lead to the destruction of two German tanks, but his heroism also resulted in the capture of more than 500 prisoners.

For his actions, Hawk received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman in Olympia on the steps of the Capitol Building.

"What I did was not such a big thing," Hawk commented in 2008.  "I never did anything more than the people I served with.  The Medal is a symbol and it stands for service, everybody's service."

After leaving the Army in 1945, Hawk attended the University of Washington on the GI Bill and graduated with a degree in biology. For more than 30 years, he worked as a teacher and principal in the Central Kitsap School District.

"He is most proud of his years as an educator," Hawk's daughter, Marilyn Harrelson, said in talking about her father. "He threw himself into education."

That is a concept education officials at JBLM embrace.

"Mr. Hawk exemplifies the Army's dedication to education," Kathleen Connolly, an education service officer, said.  "He is the quintessential life long learner, and JBLM is committed to education."

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