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Robert Harrison, at left, stands in front of his mother’s house in Michigan before leaving for Vietnam in 1965. His daughter Jane Hoelscher, the oldest of three children, finished basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. in 1975. CONTRIBUTED / “The Redstone Rocket”

Hoelscher followed father’s example to serve in U.S. Army

Note: This article appeared in the Nov. 18 edition of the “Redstone Rocket.” This article was written by “Redstone Rocket” Editor Skip Vaughn and reprinted by permission. (skip.vaughn@theredstonerocket.com)

HENRY COUNTY, GA. – In 1965-1966, Jane Hoelscher remembers her fifth-grade teacher in Michigan calling her father a “baby killer” because he was a soldier in Vietnam. She remembers protesters at the airport spitting in her father’s face when he returned home.

She can’t forget two soldiers mistakenly coming to her house to announce that her father was killed in Vietnam, even though he was at work at his steel mill job in 1968. However, those scenarios did not stop Hoelscher from joining the U.S. Army in 1975.

Hoelscher served until 1981. She reached the rank of sergeant. “The military gave me integrity, dignity, respect … respect for myself and respect for others and a firm work ethic,” she said.

Her father, Robert Harrison, first served from 1952-1954, married and joined again in 1956 to serve until 1966. He left active duty as Staff Sergeant and retired from the Reserve in 1981 as First Sergeant. Harrison died in 1983 at age 53.

“Being that I was the oldest, I was very influenced by the military when I was a child,” Hoelscher said. After graduating from high school in Riverview, Mich. in 1973, Hoelscher entered Monroe Community College to study journalism.

Hoelscher completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Ga. as a radio teletype Morse code operator. She reported to Fort Riley, Kan. and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. and finally Darmstadt, Germany, from 1979-1981 to finish her career.

Hoelscher was in one of the last WACs or Women’s Army Corps. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Drury University in 1987, master’s degree in early childhood education from University of West Georgia in 1998 and a specialist’s degree from Lincoln Memorial University in 2012.

Teaching for Department of Defense in Germany from 1990-1992, she saw the Berlin Wall come down while working in Bamberg. As a child, she had seen the wall built while her father was stationed in Germany.

She has taught elementary students in Clayton County for 28 years. Her former husband William, a Persian Gulf War veteran, died in 2014. Her daughter Julie, born in Frankfurt, Germany, now lives in Atlanta.

After the pandemic, she plans to resume traveling. Hoelscher enjoys reading historical fiction.

Commenting on the 50-year commemoration of the Vietnam War’s end, Hoelscher said the United States must learn from mistakes. “We have to face the challenges of the next century. We have to use technology to make our lives better, but technology doesn’t need to rule our lives,” she said.

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