FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- After almost four decades of service to the nation, one veteran joined the ranks of some the Army's most storied Aviators with his induction into one of Aviation's most prestigious societies.

Retired CW5 Rufus N. Montgomery Sr. was inducted into the Order of the Eagle Rising Society becoming the 20th member during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 26.

"This morning we are privileged to recognize [Montgomery] as the newest member of the Eagle Rising Society," said Col. Garry L. Thompson, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College commandant, during the ceremony. "Today, we add Mr. Montgomery's 37 years of dedicated service, not to mention his continued loyalty and contribution to the warrant officer cohort and the surrounding community.

"It's now your time to take your rightful place as only one of 20 Americans to have received the Order of the Eagle Rising," he said. "In you we find a sterling example to be emulated, and a reminder of the selfless service that can live within us all."

Montgomery said he was humbled to be inducted into the society, and only ever wished to serve his country and create an environment for others to succeed.

"Today, I have an honor given to only a few select Soldiers -- induction into the Order of the Eagle Rising Society. I accept this honor with gratitude, humility and much respect," he said. "I chose not to do what the Army wanted me to do or go where the road led me. Instead, I did what the Army wanted me to do, but went a little bit further to do more.

"[I chose] to be loyal to my superiors and my subordinates," he continued. "[I chose] to go beyond the road and do more, and create a new road that my fellow Soldiers and civilians could follow and be successful. I'm a very happy man today. Thank you all very much."

Montgomery enlisted into the Army in 1965 during a time when it wasn't popular to be a Soldier, but nevertheless took his place as a combat infantryman (paratrooper) and later as a cook with C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, during his first tour of duty.

"I had an opportunity to briefly see what was in Rufus' background, and I think the part that stood out the most was the fact that he entered the Army in 1965," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dana Atkins, Military Officers Association of America president and chief executive officer, and guest speaker for the event. "This was on the cusp of the Vietnam War. It was when (many in) our nation hated the military. When our service members came back and literally had apples, oranges, rotten grapes, tomatoes, eggs, whatever, were thrown [at them], but yet he elected to give service to his nation, even under that environment.

"He elected to stay 37 more years to serve his nation in a way that no others have done before him," he continued. "Rufus, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this opportunity to now know you personally -- know what you've done and know what you've contributed to the Army through leadership."