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Light fighters share their memories

Past and present soldiers reflect on the 7th's 100th

Harrison Hall, headquarters 7th ID, named after Lt. Gen. William Harrison, who was also Lakewood’s first mayor. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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As the 7th Infantry Division celebrates its 100th anniversary, three veterans and one active-duty soldier took the time to briefly reminisce about their service in the division.

Pfc. Dick Hazelmeyer

"It is a damn good division," stated Hazelmeyer during a telephone conversation.

A native of Spokane, he served in the Hourglass Division from 1951 through 1954.  

"I was a sound projection repairman," Hazelmeyer continued, "but in Korea I hauled telephone wire. We caught a lot of hell."

He said that soldiers should do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

"Someone will notice, and we have the freedoms we have today because of soldiers' actions."

After leaving the Army in 1954, Hazelmeyer joined the Air Force and served for another two decades. After leaving the service, he worked as a service officer helping other veterans receive their benefits.

"I am proud of every damn day I served," Hazelmeyer said. "Especially the time I spent with the 7th."

Maj. Gen. John Hemphill

If there is a soldier who personifies the "damn good division" that Hazelmeyer spoke of, it is Hemphill.

A native of Boise, Idaho, he graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, in 1951.

While assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, Hemphill arrived in Korea in 1952.

According to noted division historian Lt. Col.(R) Donald Simpson, the Hourglass Division introduced itself to greatness during a period called the "Stalemate Phase," the time when the main line of resistance stabilized in the fall of 1951 until the truce went into effect July 27, 1953.

"I select this period because of the intensity of the fighting and also the uncertainty over whether the ground was to be taken and then given back because of negotiations," wrote Simpson.

"It involved pretty intense combat."

Hemphill was in the middle of it all at the Chorwan Valley and Pork Chop Hill.

"It was a battle-tested division," he wrote in an email.

During his long and distinguished career, Hemphill again served in the 7th ID when the division underwent conversion to a Light Division under the command of Lt. Gen. (R) William Harrison.

SSgt Richard Jones

Describing his time in the Hourglass Division as rewarding, Jones had the opportunity to eat, sleep and work as the 7th became one of the Army's true light infantry divisions.

"The experience of being in a light infantry division, being able to test new equipment and battlefield strategies, was unparalleled," wrote Jones in an email.

"The training was hard, tough, demanding and realistic ... but kept us ready and prepared to deploy when needed."

And who had heard of the division's "light fighter hair?"

"This was straps of burlap and camouflage used on our covers to break up the outline," continued Jones.

"Whether inside the U.S. or on foreign soils, we were recognized for this."

But Jones' greatest memory is about a person -- then Maj. Gen. William Harrison, a soldier who later commanded I Corps and for whom the 7th ID's Headquarters building is named in honor.

"He was our division commanding general from 1985 to 1987, and he was everywhere!" continued Jones.

"I swear he worked 25 hours a day and eight days a week; you were proud to be associated with the division."

Lt. Col. Jon Drake

Unlike Hazelmeyer, Hemphill and Jones, Drake currently serves as the 7th's division engineer.

Understanding that the mission always comes first, Drake values and lives the division's emphasis on teamwork.

"We're not staffed to the higher levels of a traditional division," he wrote in an email.

"The staff is empowered to accomplish any assigned task ... with communication a premium."

As the 7th ID looks forward to the future, it will do so with both eyes on training and readiness.

"We remain compliant (training and readiness) and set the standards across the division."

For the next 100 years of service.

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