(FORT KNOX, Ky). The Fort Knox Middle/High School football team marched out of the locker room for the final game of the season Friday, October 29. The team was hopeful that it could turn around its season with a final win against the Caverna Colonels. A surprise guest inspired them to win even more.
“This is your house. Don’t let anyone embarrass you in your house. You want a win? You take a win!”
General Paul Funk II, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), addressed the student athletes prior to the traditional “Eagle Walk” into the Fort Knox Eagles’ stadium. The atmosphere felt similar to classic war films in which the superior officer addresses his troops prior to sending them into battle.
Funk joined arms with those troops in the very front of the formation as they marched down the hill into Eagle Stadium, prepared for battle. For these soldiers, the motivation definitely worked, as they proved victorious with a final 42-8 score.
Funk, a military child himself, was born at Fort Hood, Texas, and graduated from Fort Knox High School in 1980, following a celebrated career on the school’s football team, among other sports. On this evening, Eagle #30 was to be officially retired and framed on the locker room wall of former heroes.
“What I learned here as an Eagle has carried me through my career. What I learned on this field, from these men next to me, has made me the leader I am today,” Funk said during the halftime retirement ceremony.
Funk referenced four former coaches who joined him and his family for the momentous occasion. He had not seen his leaders in forty years, yet their meeting felt as if no time had passed.
“Seeing these guys makes me so emotional-they were the first to teach me what separates good leaders from bad leaders. They are definitely examples I come back to when I think of who I am as a leader myself,” Funk said after being surprised by his coaches.
“I am so proud of him and all he has done. This is a huge moment for him to get to come back home and have his jersey retired, and I am so grateful our son got to witness it as well,” Dr. Beth Funk, Gen. Funk’s spouse said. “His entire career, he has put everyone he works with before himself; seniors, peers, subordinates. So it is refreshing to get to watch him take a moment to realize how much he has accomplished and see where it all started for him.”
Funk was promoted to four-star General and assumed command of TRADOC in June 2019. In this role, he is ultimately responsible to the Chief of Staff of the Army for the 32 Army schools organized under eight Centers of Excellence that recruit, train and educate more than 500,000 Soldiers and service members annually.
An Armor officer by trade, Funk has commanded at every level, from company to corps, including the now inactivated 3rd Armored Division, and historic units such as the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Infantry Division, and III Corps. He has deployed in support of contingency operations six separate times, and served with Headquarters, U.S. Army, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
He concluded the ceremony by addressing the assembled crowd: “I typically end my comments by saying ‘I am an American Soldier.’ Today, I am proud to add that ‘I am an Eagle, now and forever.’”