During National Black History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Harry Brooks Jr., the sixth Black general flag officer in the Army.
Harry Brooks Jr. was born in May 1928 and grew up in a segregated community in Indianapolis, Indiana. While in high school, he excelled at mathematics and joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Brooks enlisted in the Army in 1947, and went to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he served with the all-Black 365th Infantry Division. Fort Dix remained segregated even after President Truman signed an executive order that integrated the Army. Once Brooks concluded his service at Fort Dix, he attended Officer Candidates School at Fort Riley, Kansas. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in the quartermaster branch.
Brooks’ first involvement in an integrated Army unit was in Japan in 1950 during the Korean War. There, he served as a logistics commander. In 1966, he served in Germany as an artillery officer.
Brooks later served with the 199th Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he trained a battalion to become expert gunners. By the end of training, Brooks had equipped 85 expert gunners to travel with him to Vietnam and work with Vietnamese Rangers. Brooks later received an award to become one himself.
Upon returning from Vietnam, Brooks served on the Army General Staff with the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development and attended the U.S. Army War College for a year. After graduation, he became the commander of the 72nd Field Artillery Group in Wertheim, Germany.
Brooks later returned stateside and worked at the Pentagon during a time when the Army struggled with racial conflict. He later served as a colonel and the Army Director of Race Relations and Equal Opportunity.
Brooks went to Korea and spent 17 months there. He then served in Hawaii as the second acting commander of the 25th Infantry Division. There, he was responsible for many soldiers whom he encouraged to pursue high school and college degrees.
While in the Army, Brooks spent 22 years taking classes and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. After retiring from the military, he attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business and completed the Executive Program.
Brooks finished his service in Hawaii and retired with the rank of major general in 1976. During his career, he received two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, a Meritorious Service Medal and seven Air Medals.
Brooks passed away in August 2017 at age 89.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Modupe Fabilola
Editor: Erica MacSweeney and Katherine Berman
Fact checker: Carl Wesseln
Graphic artist: Grace Yang