Vietnam Veteran Staff Sergeant Thomas Hendricks Sr. Continues His Legacy of Service with Maryland Defense Force

Thomas E. Hendricks, Sr. has a distinguished career in the U.S. Army. He served in The Vietnam War veteran and served as an infantryman with the legendary 1st Air Cavalry Division. His role in Vietnam was fraught with danger, including serving as a point man in patrols and as a “tunnel rat,” navigating narrow underground tunnels in search of enemy forces. His bravery and commitment during his time in the Army earned him several commendations, including the combat infantry badge and various service medals.

After five years of active service, Hendricks transitioned to civilian life, eventually starting his own contracting business specializing in home remodeling and repair. Despite his successful career, Hendricks felt a strong desire to continue serving. In 2010, he joined The Maryland Defense Force, where he has been contributing his vast experience in construction and maintenance. As a Staff Sergeant in the 121st Engineer Regiment, Hendricks plays a crucial role in the Installation Status Review program, inspecting Army National Guard facilities and supporting budgetary decisions. His ongoing dedication to service, despite his earlier sacrifices, is highly regarded and celebrated, particularly by Brig. Gen. (MD) Gregory J. Juday, who acknowledged Hendricks as an American hero and one of the few Vietnam veterans still actively serving in uniform. Hendricks’ story is a testament to his unwavering commitment to his country and community.

Vietnam Veteran’s Service Continues with MDDF
Thomas E. Hendricks, Sr. is a native Pennsylvanian who was raised in the foster care system. “I joined the U.S. Army at 17 years old to get away from my foster family that I couldn’t stand to live with anymore. After basic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina I was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana for Advanced Individual Training. Shortly thereafter in 1968 I was in Vietnam,” Hendricks said.
Although trained as an automotive mechanic with a wheeled vehicle mechanic Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Hendricks was designated an infantryman once he got to Vietnam. “They needed infantry guys so my MOS was redesignated 11 Bravo and I served with an infantry unit of the 1st Air Cavalry Division,” he said. Operating from helicopters, these airmobile infantry soldiers or “skytroopers,” traveled far and wide where they were inserted into enemy territory to directly engage the enemy.
“I was oftentimes the point man on patrols and I would sometimes have to call in artillery support when we were under fire,” Hendricks shared. Due to his small stature he was used as a “tunnel rat” whose job was to crawl into very small underground tunnels in search of enemy forces, weapons or intelligence. This was especially dangerous work. At the end of his tour while temporarily stationed in Germany, Hendricks re-enlisted. “They were looking for volunteers to go back to Vietnam and I felt it was my duty to go back and serve.” During his distinguished tenure in the U.S. Army, Pfc. Hendricks earned the combat infantry badge, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal. He also was awarded two sharpshooter badges and four overseas service bars.
After leaving the U.S. Army after five years of active service Hendricks worked as a supervisor at two manufacturing plants before starting a contracting business in 1980 that he still operates today. His specialty is home remodeling and repair. In addition to general contracting, Hendricks also has expertise in electrical, masonry, roofing and finishing work.
After several years, “I still felt the need to serve. I saw an advertisement or something for the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) in 2010 and reached out to then Col. (MD) Brian R. Kelm who commanded the 121st Engineer Regiment. He told me to come down to the armory and check out the unit to see if I liked it – and I did,” Thomas explained. Assigned to the 121st Engineer Regiment since 2010, Staff Sgt. (MD) Hendricks works primarily with the Installation Status Review (ISR) program. The ISR program is an annual facility inspection program of Army National Guard infrastructure which supports budgetary and resource allocation decision making. “I get to use my decades of construction and maintenance experience to help the Maryland National Guard,” said Hendricks.
“It’s an honor to serve with Staff Sgt. (MD) Thomas Hendricks. He is an American hero and one of only a handful of Vietnam veterans still serving in uniform across the United States. The fact that he is still committed to serve his community after having sacrificed so much as a young man is a testament to his character and love of country. We honor him and all who have served this Veteran’s Day,” said Brig. Gen. (MD) Gregory J. Juday, commanding general of the MDDF.
The Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) is the State’s uniformed volunteer militia unit providing competent, supplementary, professional and technical support and soldiers to the Maryland Military Department and the State of Maryland as needed. Established in 1917, the MDDF consists of nearly 200 personnel who perform legal, engineering, finance, medical, chaplain, field support and ceremonial services for the State of Maryland.
MAJ Stephen Rice
MDDF Public Affairs

Source: Maryland Defense Force

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