Upon graduating from West Point, Hopkinton's Ted Hoyt started his military career in the Air Defense Artillery. He retired as a Major in the Army Special Forces also known as the Green Berets.
Hoyt was once in charge of a group of soldiers who spent months living in St. Petersburg, Russia, for language and culture immersion. They also trained in cross-country skiing.
Their ski instructor was an Olympic medalist. Hoyt said they all had a grand old time drinking vodka and trying to understand their instructor's stories.
During Operation Provide Comfort, Hoyt and his fellow soldiers supported Kurdish Iraq after the first Gulf War.
They were treated as heroes. Schools would let out early when the American soldiers came to town.
On one occasion, Hoyt sent his men out in the pouring rain to temporarily staff a radio link on an exposed hilltop. He said a group of local Kurdish men followed, held a tarp over the group and offered them food.
“I’m afraid most of the soldiers in the second Gulf War and Afghanistan had a very different experience,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt recently returned from a memorial golf outing in honor of a classmate killed last year in Afghanistan. The soldier had five children ranging in age from 5 to 21.
This wasn’t the first time Hoyt had felt such a loss. Many years ago, a few months after graduating from West Point, he lost three classmates (two close friends) in a helicopter crash.
“They had the whole world in front of them and then they were gone,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt said he has been lucky. He can look back fondly on his military career. But he feels strongly about those who serve and have served.
“For those kids and everyone else that have gone and are going through Hell, I think it is really important for 'us' civilians to recognize and appreciate their sacrifice for us, regardless of whether we want them to be where our government sends them," Hoyt said.
"Their selflessness is remarkable in an increasingly selfish world."
Hoyt said it is not enough to simply thank veterans for their service.
"We owe it to the ones that return to ensure that they have a decent job and place in society," he said.
"To the ones that don’t, to make sure that their loved ones are taken care of as best we can, and that they are never forgotten," Hoyt said.
"If it means that we need to sacrifice a little to make it happen, so be it," says Hoyt, whose younger brother is a Navy SEAL.