Veterans Day is a day to honor and thank all military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces and reflect on the solemn pride in their heroism with gratitude for the protection they have provided to our country and our individual freedoms. As we reflect on Veterans Day this year, we spotlight one of Graycor’s own veterans, Rich Hogan, who shares his military story:
As #4 of six siblings born and raised in rural Western Kentucky, my working career started at the age of 13 at my dad’s fast-food restaurant where I would spend Saturday’s emptying trash and cleaning the parking lot. By the time I turned 18, I was managing my own shift, and soon after graduating school managing a second restaurant. For a sleepy rural community, not many aspired to accomplish much beyond farming or coal mining. For me, working 80+ hours a week didn’t leave much for social life, so when a Navy recruiter contacted me about operating nuclear power plants…he definitely had my attention.
Prior to my naval career, I didn’t venture much outside of a 100-mile radius from my hometown and had no idea how life was about to change by serving our country. My introduction into the Navy started with 8 weeks of boot camp in Great Lakes, IL. Little did I know at the time that my career would eventually make it back full circle to Chicago with Graycor.
In the nuclear Navy, there are basically three technical positions: electrician, electronics technician and mechanical technician. I took the mechanical route and was privileged to graduate in the top 10% of mechanics, providing the option to take additional schooling for chemistry and radiological controls.
While not overly excited about being originally designated to serve on submarines, I jumped at the chance to be one of the first to serve on the newly commissioned $3 billion-dollar (1987 value) aircraft carrier, Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) before I ever had to step onboard a sub. There are not many jobs where a 21 year old has the responsibility to safely operate two 550 MW nuclear reactors and get to see the world in the process. Serving during the Roosevelt’s maiden six-month voyage, we sailed to many ports throughout the Caribbean Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
My military career continued with an assignment to construct and commission the USS George Washington (CVN-73). Following that assignment, I was asked to take a shore-based instructor position, training new sailors on nuclear power plant operations. This ended up being my favorite assignment in the military because the reward of transferring knowledge to “new blood” to carry on the mission is priceless. My final tour of duty was on a smaller vessel, the USS South Carolina (CGN-37). She was a guided missile cruiser that was about half the size of an aircraft carrier.
My military career took me many places around the world that few people get the chance to experience. From climbing the Rock of Gibraltar, to seeing the pyramids and Sphinx up close, spending the night at the foot of an active volcano, crossing the Arctic circle for a front row seat to the Aurora Borealis, sailing a 1,200 foot vessel into the eye of a hurricane and seeing the setup of the Grand Prix in Monaco, the most important experience of all was being able to protect and serve this great nation. It was an honor and privilege to serve my country and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Thank you, Rich, and thank you to all our nation’s veterans for your service.
Rich was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1998. He joined Graycor as Craft Recruiting Manager in 2013 after 15 years in various heavy industrial construction roles. Rich currently serves as Human Resources Manager where he continues to transfer knowledge to “carry on the mission”.