Gene Patrick Hill
Resided in: Arlington, VA
My dad Gene P Hill. Led an interesting long life much of it as a vagabond – moving hither and yon.
He was born in the depths of the depression, in Miami Florida in 1931. His father died in a hurricane shortly before his birth. The entire Benson/Blankenship family took turns caring for him. His Aunt’s Ruby and Viola and Uncle Happy all took turns caring for him. When his mother married Merrill Mead (a news anchor during the war) – he gained a new family, a stepfather and a sister and life on the west coast. Merrill Mead moved into the newspaper business, and they returned to Florida. At 17 Gene joined the Army.
He began his Army career in 1948. He was quickly sent to Japan as part of the occupation of Japan. He loved Japan but Korea broke out and on D+1, he landed in Korea. He never spoke much of Korea. It was cold and he thought he was not going to see his 20th birthday. But Papa being Papa managed to find a tank out on patrol and created quite a stir when he rolled in the town with it. He was disappointed he did not get to keep his newfound treasure. From Korea he was sent to Germany – still as part of the army of the occupation. There he picked up a wife, a daughter, and a mother-in-law, which he got to keep. In 1957, he was sent to OCS at Fort Benning – where he became an officer. He would have many moves and assignments before Vietnam. Fort Knox, then another tour in Korea, another tour in Fort Knox, Omaha (bootstrap to the University of Omaha), Berlin Brigade and Fort Eustice.
He went to Vietnam in 1967 and was there the entire year. He truly cared about the men under his command. He noticed a young guy always pulling KP. So, he spoke to the young man. Turns out the young man had a speech impediment and was the brunt of comments about it. He and the young man had a long talk about what could be done. The young man decided to become tunnel rat. He was an excellent tunnel rat and was written up in his hometown newspaper, as a local hero. Gene once sent a company out on patrol, and he was watching them and in constant radio contact – and told the lead guy – I will tell you to stop if I see anything. E did see an enemy patrol and told his guy to stop. The guy did. The guy was very happy to avoid the enemy but told papa later the timing was bad he now had to dig gravel out of his rear. One of the really great things he when he first went out in the field was cut down the patrol fatally rate. A patrol would go out and they 75 to 90% fatally rate. Papa instituted sending multiple patrols out then 15-minute increment. That change cut the fatality rate down to roughly 10%. He was wounded in a night attack and carried shrapnel in forehead for the rest of his life.
After Vietnam, there was brief stop at Fort Bragg, the on to Fort Leavenworth for Commanding General Staff College and then on to the Pentagon. Whatever he did there was super-secret. Other than the fact he worked on the Patriot Missile; I am in the dark. He retired in 1975, with just under 27 years. He was up for Colonel and another overseas assignment, but my mother became ill, so he decided retire.
He then worked in the Pentagon as a civilian. And he was running up for a Civilian award, the 1979 Pace Award. Then he retired from all that and started a small real estate company and earned his PhD. He bought up houses to rent to people who might not otherwise have been able to rent a house. Then later he sold them to renters so they could have their first home and start wealth building. He was convinced a house was good investment if you hang onto it. He was not wrong.
Papa was good brother – always there when his sister needed him. He had a wonderful marriage with a woman he adored for 64 years. They were inseparable. Every evening they would spend hours talking and just being together. He took to fatherhood. On Saturdays to give my mom a break – he took care of me. He would drop me off at the movies – while he did his errands, and then we would go to the library. He taught me how to ride a bike and shoot. Later, he would also take me out to the range along with his soldiers. Just sometimes I was a better shot. Things also I learned from my dad – No plan survives first contact with the enemy, when things go sideways – and they will – regroup, adapt and move on, we care for one another, and no man is left behind.
He took to grandfathering – he adored my daughter from the moment she was a tiny wiggly 4-pound preemie. I would drop her off at their house in the morning and he had a walk routine with her. He would point to the pictures and as she got older but still preverbal -she would pantomime what was happening in the pictures. He swore she was a 2000-year-old space alien and would share great secret when she could talk from her expressions. Later he would take her and her friends with them to the dinner theater and their mountain condo.
Today we are bidding him farewell. Farewell to a true hero and caring family man. We lay to him rest with his beloved Eva and it is truly fitting that he will be among his brothers in arm – here In Arlington National Cemetery.