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Hello and Goodbye: A Brief Tribute to Lieutenant General (Ret.) Henry Doctor, Jr.,USA

Friday, December 14, 2007  
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Maggie and I received the news about the death of our friend and trusted advisor LieutenantLTG Henry Doctor, USA General (Ret.) Henry Doctor, Jr., USA, on Friday, December 7, 2007, and it was a sad day. This morning, we participated in a celebration of the life of the man known as "Hank" to his many, many friends and colleagues.

As you read this, I hope you come away with some impression of the level of impact my friend Hank Doctor had on so many lives, much as I learned today as we said goodbye. To set the stage of the indelible mark he had already made on the world as a career military leader by the time I met him four or five years ago his last three assignments prior to his retirement from the Army were:
  • Chief of Staff, US Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command, Alexandria, VA
  • Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division, Eighth US Army, Republic of Korea and
  • The Inspector General of the US Army, The Pentagon, Washington, DC
During this wonderful celebration, I was moved to tears. I cried because I'll miss the man whom, unless someone told you (because he wouldn't), you would never know of the amazing gifts he had brought to so many or of the distinguished career he compiled in service to our country. I shed tears for the friendship that has been cut short, which to my detriment will no longer grow and provide me with the unique and insightful look at life and the art of giving back.

I was moved to tears this morning, when his fraternity brothers from Omega Psi Phi assembled in and around the pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Alexandria to pay him honor. I was further moved as they described how General Doctor personified their principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift and then struck his name from his chapter's roster in order to have it placed on the roster of the Omega Chapter.

Then I smiled.

As I sat there listening to friends and family talk of the other parts of his life, I realized that we existed in a very small corner of Hank’s universe. Knowing of his vast selflessness and commitment to contributing to the uplift of others, his commitment to family and our nation, makes us feel even more fortunate and humbled that we knew him.

As the tributes and acknowledgments began, he was described in ways which we also knew him. Everyone spoke of the always present slight smile he maintained and his intense eye contact when he spoke but mostly listened.

Retired Army General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell led things off describing how General Doctor was a role model to he and other black junior officers coming into the Army at the time and Lieutenant General Stanley Green, the current Inspector General of the Army, offered how General Doctor loved his country, loved his soldiers, loved his family and placed the bar for performance as a soldier and officer so high, that it demanded others to always perform at their best. Everyone in the building was moved as Major General Abraham Turner, USA, spoke of him as "Dad" and attributed his being there to General Doctor's commitment to and continued support of the ROTC program at their alma mater, South Carolina State University.

There are tears in my eyes as I write this now and remember the man, my friend and realize that I was in the presence of a great human being who was incredibly complete. God, Country, Family, Life, Love...What else is needed?

Another friend, Chaplain Major General (Ret.) Mathew Zimmerman made us feel at ease as he related his first and second encounters with "Aloha!" on a trip to Hawaii. When he arrived there, he was welcomed with "Aloha!" and heard it again as he left the island causing him some confusion. After receiving an explanation that "Aloha!" was hello and goodbye, he related it to today’s service. As we say goodbye to Hank in this life, we are assured that he is being greeted by his son Kenneth, his sister Mable, his brothers Joseph and Melvin, the founders of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman and the angels as they open Heaven's Gate to welcome him home.

We will miss you Hank.

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