Recognizing our veterans
Principal serves more than kids

Nov. 9, 2017

By Ryan Wilkes

Veterans Day commemorates military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. This day is observed on Nov. 11 to honor those who have served in the military.

This day was originally known as Armistice Day, a day to remember the end of World War I. WWI formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The United States previously observed Armistice Day, and then later in 1954, the U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day.

Thomas Vickers, principal at Central High School in Phenix City, has served in the Alabama National Guard for 31 years. Vickers is a promotable colonel, pending a vacancy in the state and selection by the Adjutant General, which would determine his promotion to Brigadier General, and an engineer officer in the Alabama National Guard. 

There are many reasons someone may join the military, but for Vickers, it runs in the family.

“My father was in the National Guard,” Vickers said. “Also, my stepfather was in the Army who served in Vietnam for two tours, and my grandfather also served in WWII and Korea.  I saw it as my patriotic duty.”

Vickers was stationed in Iraq on his first tour from May 2007 to June 2008, where he was a battalion commander. He had more than 1,000 soldiers that went out to look for IEDs (improvised explosive devices), every day.

“My second tour was in Kuwait from January 2013 to November 2013,” Vickers said. “Where I was the chief of staff for a support organization with 5,000 soldiers and civilians that was responsible for all logistics in the Middle East.”

He also had the opportunity to work in the Dominican Republic, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and a dozen different bases around the United States. Vickers has also been to some extravagant places around the globe and one made it his favorite place that he has been stationed.

“I would have to say spending time in Dubai was quite an experience -- to see one of the richest countries in the world,”Vickers said.“Some examples were going up in the largest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, and eating at the Cheesecake Factory in a mall that you could look out the window and watched (indoor skiing) and sledding down a man-made mountain covered in snow while it was 120 degrees outside. Another mall had a gondola down the middle of it like you were in Italy. It really was an amazing place.”

Vickers has made many grand memories while serving in the military, with one being able to pass out more than 1,000 soccer balls to the children of Iraq that were donated by Americans trying to build relationships with the Iraqi people.

Another memory was taking school supplies to children living in a third world country and seeing the faces of the students receiving those supplies. Vickers said that were many experiences that stood out to him.

“Eating meals with people in Kuwait and Iraq in their homes and seeing their customs,” Vickers said. “Understanding that we all want the very same thing, for the most part, to be able to support our families and have a better life for our children.” 

Vickers knows one of his greatest memories was, when serving during wartime for two years, he never lost a soldier in combat operations. The other was having had the honor to serve with some of the greatest people in the world.

Vickers shared some valuable advice to young people who would like to join and serve in the United States Armed Forces.

“Do it because it will be something you will never regret,” Vickers said. “And you will have the opportunity to serve with great Americans.”