HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — “I once learned from an old master sergeant when I first came in, ‘Take care of your Soldiers and your Soldiers will take care of you,’” retired Staff Sgt. John Footman recalled. “That’s what I did, and I enjoyed it. And that’s what I tried to pass on to my young Soldiers.”
After 20 years of active duty service, Footman never stopped serving, he simply put on a new hat and continued doing what he does best – taking care of Soldiers. Embodying the Soldier for Life spirit, the Vietnam veteran has served the nation in some capacity since he was drafted in 1967.
After a tour in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division, Footman said he felt the jungles calling him back and voluntarily requested to return for a second tour, despite his reenlistment sergeant’s protests. While on his second tour in Vietnam, he earned a Bronze Star with Valor for discovering a weapons cache with five B40 heads, 16 B40 charges, five B41 charges, 210 blasting caps, four fuses for 82mm mortars, a one-time fuse and a log book detailing everything the enemy had been hauling since 1963. He said he was originally nominated for the Silver Star, but it was downgraded.
During the same timeframe, the veteran Soldier received two Purple Hearts after being wounded on the battlefield. One, for being shot and the second for sustaining a significant injury to his legs during an explosion.
“They told me I’d never walk again, but I’m walking,” he said, pointing up to the sky. “That was God.”
Footman now carries his battle scars with honor, proudly sharing his stories and helping current Soldiers and veterans receive the assistance they need while transitioning from active duty service. He is a member of Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He is a member of the Department of Texas Military Order of the Purple Heart, where he serves as the Region 5 inspector. He is the chaplain of The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 1876, out of Harker Heights, and he also serves as a member of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action wreath-laying committee.
After 53 years of service – 20 years active duty and 33 years of retired service – Footman said the one thing he enjoyed the most was leading and helping his troops the best he could, which is something he strives for daily.
“These Soldiers need our support,” he added. “We didn’t get this (support) when I got out of the Army. I had to stumble here and stumble there until I got what I needed.”
Footman’s continued service to the troops is one of the reasons he received a Congressional Veteran Commendation from Congressman John Carter, TX-District 31, Oct. 17 during a ceremony at Texas A&M University – Central Texas. The commendation is designed to recognize the wartime sacrifices and peacetime community involvement of residents of the 31st Congressional District of Texas.