PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. After 32 years of military service, Picatinny Arsenal chief of staff and military deputy at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Col. Richard J. Hornstein retired during a ceremony here on Aug. 17.

Hornstein was well known throughout the Picatinny community, as evident by the many retired general officers and senior executive service members in attendance. They included James Shields, former Program Executive Officer Ammunition (PEO Ammo), along with former senior commanders and PEO(s) Ammo, Lt. Gen. William Phillips and Brig. Gen. John McGuiness.

John F. Hedderich Ill, ARDEC director, oversaw the official party and presented the orders in which to retire Hornstein from active military service, but not before the colonel would carry out one last act: Hornstein presented Hedderich with the Order of Samuel Sharpe Award.

The award recognizes persons who have served the United States Army Ordnance Corps with demonstrated integrity, moral character and professional competence over a sustained period of time -- and whose selfless contributions to the Corps stand out in the eyes of their seniors, peers and subordinates alike.

Afterward, Hedderich cited part of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps song when speaking about Hornstein and the mission behind what ARDEC does.

''And for the love of every mother's son
Who's depending on the work that must be done
By the man, behind the man, behind the gun"

"Isn't that us?" Hedderich asked.

The ARDEC director then said there was one person in the audience who made "the man, behind the man, behind the gun" who he wanted to recognize. Hedderich departed the stage to embrace Kathleen Hornstein, Hornstein's mother, for raising his military deputy.

The colonel comes from a family rich in military tradition. His two brothers, Ed and Jim, both retired U.S. Army colonels, attended the ceremony along with their fam?ilies. His father, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War when Hornstein was just a boy, set the course for his three sons to pursue a career serving their nation.

Although he retired as a colonel, Horn?stein was not always a commissioned officer. He credits a fellow non-commissioned officer at the time for setting him on a different path.

"I spent five years in the infantry," Hornstein said. "I was a buck sergeant, and I was going through the Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course when I had a master sergeant, who was the instructor, come to me."

Hornstein noted he had an associate's degree at the time. The master sergeant broke out a newspaper to show him a program that was highlighted and called "Green to Gold."

"He said, 'You should sign up for that pro?gram, and I said, 'Yeah, ok.' He said, 'No, no. I had an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School years ago and didn't do it, and I've always regretted it."'

"He said, 'Go call them now,' and I did. And I was out of the Army with a Chapter 16 within three months, going to ROTC. His words changed the trajectory of my life."

Over the course of Hornstein's 32 years, he and his family moved 18 times. The amount of stress a military family may endure while acclimating to change after change is immea?surable. But Hornstein said his wife and three daughters never complained.

"The Army doesn't necessarily take you places that you want to be, but when you get there, you find out you were supposed to be there," Hornstein said.

The colonel talked about how his wife and daughters adapted to each new location and made the best of each situation.

Meanwhile, he learned new jobs and career fields that were foreign to him, but that the Army expected him to excel in.

"Families ground us. They ground as officers, as NCOs, as units, and they make us functional."

Aside from his role within ARDEC, Hornstein's other position as installation chief of staff required him to work closely with the Picatinny Arsenal Senior Commander, Brig. Gen. Alfred F. Abramson III, and the garrison commander, Lt. Col. Samuel Morgan.

At times, Hornstein was the senior ranking officer on the installation while Abramson was away. This would leave him with the duty to make critical decisions that would impact the Picatinny community.

Hornstein spent more than 30 minutes thanking friends and family in the audience, and those who could not attend the ceremony but who made an impact on shaping and defining the Soldier he became.

For his service to the installation, the U.S. Army and the nation, Hornstein was also recognized with the Meritorious Service Medal.