DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - He's regarded as one of the most highly decorated American soldiers in our nation's history, and is considered to be the most highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam war. Staff Sgt. Joe Ronnie Hooper, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, was remembered during Memorial Day observances this morning in Decatur.
Joe Ronnie Hooper was not an ordinary guy. "He was a very nice man, he was very patriotic. He loved teenagers, he worked with teenaged boys that had problems," according to Hooper's widow, Faye Hooper, of Decatur.
He was one of those rare men who would ignore the obvious dangers to help someone else.
"We were driving along the California highway and this very small sports car had turned over and the fire department and everyone was shouting get back, get back, it's going to explode, and he just goes walking over like nobody said anything and gets the young man out," Mrs. Hooper told WHNT News 19.
Joe served three tours of duty in Vietnam. In February of 1968, during the Tet Offensive, he and his squad were pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire. "They were in battle and there were some bunkers that were just killing everybody and he took them all out and was wounded 11 times, would not accept any kind of help and would not leave the battlefield until all of his men were taken care of which was the next morning," Mrs. Hooper said.
"37 medals that included the Congressional Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars, eight Purple Hearts and he was credited with killing 115 enemy," says Becky Burney, a Past Commander of American Legion Post 15 in Decatur.
He was also credited with running through enemy fire to drag other wounded soldiers to safety. Joe Ronnie Hooper was not an ordinary guy. And on this Memorial Day he was remembered as an American hero.
Captain Hooper died of natural causes in May of 1979. He was just 40 years old.