August 06, 2014 - Jim Hubbard is much more interested in helping his fellow veterans than receiving personal accolades, but he's certainly honored by all the attention he's received from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Jim Hubbard (right), a Vietnam War hero and commander of North Oakland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 334, is interviewed by John Oetjens for a new Oxford Community Television program entitled "My Life," which airs Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Channel 191 (Charter) and Channel 99 (U-verse). It also airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
The 69-year-old Orion Township resident, who commands North Oakland VFW Post 334 in Oxford, was recently named an All-American Team Commander for 2013-14.
This came a few months after Hubbard was recognized as All-State Team Commander for Michigan.
Hubbard, a highly-decorated Vietnam War hero, had "no idea" he'd win state honors let alone national honors.
"It took my breath away, really," he said. "I was so surprised to win that. It's really unbelievable."
Modest man that he is, Hubbard gave most of the credit to the hard-working members of Post 334 who march in local parades, perform functions at veterans' funerals, visit schools to share their experiences with students and distribute Buddy Poppies to raise funds to help fellow veterans in need.
"I have to really thank the post members for all the work that they do," he said. "It's a tremendous amount of work. We have a lot of things we're expected to do at the post level. There's a list of 30 to 35 things that we have to accomplish every year. I'm really proud of the guys."
The "main goal," according to Hubbard, is always expanding the post's membership.
"With more members, with more money coming in, we can help more veterans," he explained. "It's all about helping veterans. That's what the whole organization is about."
Post 334's membership growth is really quite impressive. Last year alone, the post recruited 39 new members.
"If you look back just three years ago, we only had 60 members," Hubbard said.
Right now, the post has 159 members.
"Next month, we'll have 161," he said.
Hubbard's especially proud of the way Post 334 honors its World War II veterans and shares their stories. A different one is prominently featured every month in its newsletter.
"They sacrificed a lot for us, they really did," he said. "When they went to war, it wasn't for a year and out like (during) the Vietnam era or the Korea era. They were there forever. They were there until the war was over."
Hubbard, who served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, has been commander of the post for two years and a member for about five years. "I'm a new guy," he said.
Many years ago after Hubbard returned home from Vietnam, he tried to join the VFW, but the organization was not accepting him or his fellow Vietnam veterans as the protracted conflict in Southeast Asia was still considered a "police action" because it was an undeclared war.
As time went on, that attitude changed and Vietnam veterans were welcomed into the VFW.
Given that more than 58,000 U.S. troops died in Vietnam, Hubbard said, "That wasn't just a police action. That was a war."
Although the last time he experienced combat was almost five decades ago, the grim realities of that bloody conflict are still fresh in Hubbard's mind.
During his last battle on Aug. 17, 1967, he sustained severe wounds that resulted in the loss of his right arm and right hip, multiple shrapnel wounds in his back and other injuries that required him to undergo 27 surgeries over a two-year period.
Hubbard was in command of a 12-man squad. One day, he and his squad got pinned down by an enemy force with superior numbers. With a complete disregard for his own well-being, Hubbard attacked the enemy so his team could reach safety.
"It just happened so fast," he said.
Despite suffering many devastating wounds, Hubbard held his ground and continued to wage an aggressive attack.
"If I had to give my life, I would have given my life," he said. "I just didn't want any of those guys to suffer . . . I just wanted to get everybody home alive."
Eventually, Hubbard and his squad were able to pin the enemy down until reinforcements could move around and capture them.
Hubbard earned the Purple Heart and received the Silver Star for his courage under fire and saving his comrades' lives. He also received the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters for previous battles.
Although he lost an arm, Hubbard has "no regrets" whatsoever about the extraordinary measures he took that day to ensure none of his men went home in a box.
"I sacrificed everything I could to save my men," he said. "Never did I want to write that letter (to a deceased soldier's family) or explain to the commander why they were killed."
Hubbard recently reconnected with the men under his command and he was pleased to learn "all of my squad survived Vietnam."
"I was so thrilled that none of my men died," he said. "All the guys survived their tour of duty in Vietnam and I'm so proud of that. That was my main goal. I feel that was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life."
As a VFW commander, Hubbard wants to ensure none of the veterans who served in America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ever have to experience the hatred, threats and venomous name-calling he and his fellow Vietnam veterans were subjected to by anti-war protesters.
"It was so negative," he said. "You were out doing your job, which you're supposed to do, and got treated so terribly when you returned. I've dedicated my life to making sure that never happens again to any young veteran coming back.
"They sacrifice everything, especially now. It's a much a greater sacrifice than it was in the Vietnam era. We were just drafted. They volunteered and it's not just for a year. My grandson has been over there (in Afghanistan and Iraq) seven or eight times now. He has known nothing but war since he graduated high school. He's over there for nine months, he comes home for three. He's been in (the United States Air Force) for eight years."
Serving the country is apparently a Hubbard family tradition as his grandfather served in World War I and his father fought in World War II. Hubbard's family came to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
Hubbard noted these young soldiers today do what they do for love of country, not because they're getting rich.
"The kids working at McDonald's make more money an hour than the kids working in the service," he said.
Hubbard and Post 334 do whatever they can to help young veterans attempting to build civilian lives. That includes offering them a helping hand when they need money.
Last week, they gave a young veteran, who just got back from Afghanistan and is "having a hard time," $250 for food and $200 for gasoline, so he can commute back and forth to school to complete his education.
"He's got a wife and a couple of kids and he's down on his luck," Hubbard said. "We took up a collection to help him get started. That's what we do. It's just what veterans do to help one another."
Veterans have to "stick together" and "help each other out" because they can't count on the government to support them, according to Hubbard.
"The government can't even take care of itself," he said.
Whenever people encounter a veteran, Hubbard encourages them to show some support. It doesn't take much.
"A lot of guys need nothing more than a smile and a handshake," he said. "Don't throw the negative part of any war in their face."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.