FORT HOOD, Texas -- One might forgive Brigadier General John (Mike) Murray if memories of his birthplace Kenton, Ohio have been relegated to the recesses of his mind. However, after 26 years of Active Army service with assignments to locations such as Panama, Germany, Iraq and every corner of the United States, Murray still calls Kenton home.
When Murray, Deputy Commanding General (Maneuver) of the 1st Cavalry Division left Kenton in 1978 to accept a 4-year ROTC Scholarship at The Ohio State University he never imagined he would still be a part of the military 30 years later. During his Dec. 23 promotion to the rank of brigadier general, it was clear the role of his family and hometown is one which set him on the path of Army success and one he still holds dear.
"Kenton is a small, tight knit community and even today, when I go home, everybody knows who I am" explains Murray, seated in his office at the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters.
"People still know me as Walter's grandson or John and Janet's son. I go back when I can, between duty assignments and over holidays, and stay in touch with the town through high school friends and my hometown church, St. John's."
Murray's roots are deeply ingrained in Kenton. It is the town where he met his wife Jane, while still in high school, and both Murray's and his wife's parents still live in Kenton.
"It doesn't matter how long I have been gone, which is now 30 years, I will always call Kenton home," said Murray.
Murray's parents, John and Janet, attended the promotion ceremony as did his three daughters, Jennie, Jessica and Jayna. Both of Murray's parents expressed the pride they felt during the ceremony.
"I was very, very proud and I knew he would make it (to brigadier general)," said Janet Murray, a retired public school teacher. "Kenton is a small town and my son is the first general we have ever had that was born and raised in Kenton and attended Kenton City Schools."
Janet Murray said she has lived in Kenton her whole life and it did not bother her when her son left for ROTC in 1978.
"I was not too concerned because I thought after he had served his four years he would probably get out," she said. "The only thing that kept him in school was ROTC. He really enjoyed it."
Janet Murray said her son still visits often, but not as often as she would like, due to his busy Army schedule.
John Murray also expressed his admiration for his son and his promotion, saying he was honored and pleased with his son's accomplishment.
"He has been doing this for 26 years now and I am very proud of him," he said. "We come from a small town where family is very important and we look out and care for each other."
Murray's youngest daughter Jayna, a cadet at The United States Military Academy, said it has always been clear that Kenton was a vital part of her father's life.
"It certainly means a lot to my father," Jayna Murray said. "He was born there, lived there and graduated from high school there. To come from such a small town and see where he is today is very important to me."
Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in September, 1982, Murray's first duty assignment was at Fort Davis in the Republic of Panama, a location far removed from Kenton. During the more than quarter of a century he has served the United States Army, Murray has seen his share of changes, which he explains are positive ones.
"The quality of our soldiers is so much better than it was when I came on active duty in 1982. What we ask them to do and what they are able to accomplish amazes me every day. Likewise, the quality of the non-commissioned and officer corps is also incredible. Commanders accomplish things routinely that I would never have been able to do when I was in their shoes."
Seven of Murray's 26 years in the Army have been spent at Fort Hood, Texas which has led to a special relationship with many in the surrounding communities, much like Murray's formative years in Kenton.
"I have a lot of very good friends that are big supporters of the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, and our Soldiers" said Murray, who then went on to explain that preparing Soldiers for combat in Iraq has been his main mission while at Fort Hood.
"Everything started when I got here in 2003. I assumed command of3rd Brigade, deployed, came back and went to (III) Corps who was getting ready to deploy, did that rotation and came back to the (1st Cav. Div.), who is currently getting ready to deploy again. So for the five plus years I've been here it has been all about getting Soldiers and units ready to deploy to Iraq."
In 26 years and despite being assigned to a host of different locations, Murray said both he and his wife agree they have never had a bad assignment because they have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by good people.
"Overseas assignments are memorable because they are new experiences," explains Murray. "My first assignment was in Panama, as a platoon leader, which was memorable as was my time as a battalion commander in Germany. However, the 1st Cavalry Division has been my favorite assignment overall."
From Kenton to Fort Hood, Murray's journey has been extensive and long but ultimately rewarding. From his initial uncertainty over an Army career, Murray makes one last quote which he delivers with unflinching ease and believability, befitting of his new status:
"Right now looking back..... I wouldn't do anything different."