Twelve paratroopers who served in conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan were inducted into the All American Hall of Fame as the Class of 2023.
The honorees were inducted during a ceremony on May 24 at Fort Bragg’s Hall of Heroes during All American Week, according to a news release.
Earlier this year, subordinate units in the division submitted nominations for the hall of fame, the release said. Those recommendations were presented to a board of senior leaders, who chose the 12 inductees.
The selections were based on the inductees' service within the division, their lifelong commitment to the division’s values, valorous combat action or contributions to their chosen field outside the division, the release said.
Here are this year's inductees:
- Retired Gen. Stephen R. Lyons served in multiple roles within the division. Between July 1987 and March 1990, at the rank of lieutenant and captain, he was the materiel officer and later commanded Alpha Company, 782nd Maintenance Battalion. His company deployed in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama, providing critical maintenance capability to multiple warfighting formations. He returned in July 2005 and commanded DISCOM, later reflagged as the 82nd Sustainment Brigade. His formation deployed paratroopers in support of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Retired Gen. John Nicholson Jr. last served as commander of U.S. Forces and the 41-nation, NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2018. Before that, he was commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command and commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. Commissioned in 1982, he served as an infantry officer at all levels with over six years in combat. He served combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 in Grenada and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012-14 in Afghanistan.
- Retired Gen. Dennis L. Via served in the All American Division in four positions over the course of seven years, including assistant division signal officer in the division headquarters and operations and executing officer for the 82nd Signal Battalion and eventually the commander for the same. During Via’s tenure as assistant division signal officer, he developed a communication systems modernization that integrated the Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) network to support the execution of large-scale combat operations.
- Retired Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellog Jr. joined the Army in 1967 and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's of international affairs from the University of Kansas. He went on to study senior level management and diplomacy at the Army War College. Kellogg served in the 82nd as operations officer in 1st Brigade and Commander 1-504th Infantry Regiment. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991, he served as chief of staff for the 82nd Airborne Division.
- Retired Lt. Gen. Freddy E. McFarren. During his time in service, According to many, McFarren set the standard for what it means to be a paratrooper by dedicating his time and energy in the All-American Division to develop the best paratroopers. McFarren commanded 1-319th AFAR from December 1982 to December 1984. During tats time, he deployed the battalion to Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury, the Army’s first combat deployment since Vietnam. McFarren served as the 82nd Airborne Division chief of staff from November 1988 to September 1989. Less than 90 days later, the division jumped into Panama as part of Operation Just Cause. His organizational skills and leadership in that position set the conditions for the division’s success in its first combat jump since Operation Market-Garden in World War II.
- Retired Lt. Gen. Jack P. Nix. Immediately upon taking command of 1st Brigade in 1989, Nix oversaw critical training that would ensure the brigade succeeded in combat during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, three months later. In November, he led 1st Brigade through an EDRE designed to reconstruct the environment and conditions the brigade would face in an urbanized jungle terrain. In December, Nix placed the 3-504th Parachute Infantry Regiment into a Jungle Operations Training Center training plan gap in Panama created by a Marine battalion that dropped off the mid-December training rotation. The training and rehearsals in the short months leading up to the conflict ensured 1st Brigade could fight and win. As a result, 1st Brigade experienced zero friendly-fire incidents across five separate air lifts during the initial phases of Operation Just Cause and fully deployed its command post within 30 minutes after the arrival.
- Retired Col. Jack Hamilton demonstrates the valor of the 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper in combat, according to the news release. He led paratroopers in Vietnam and Grenada and demonstrated a willingness to continue to place himself in harm’s way to serve the nation. Hamilton led from the front as the company commander of A/1-505 PIR, placing himself in harm’s way while 3rd Brigade was deployed to Vietnam in 1968-69. On March 24, 1969, while attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, Hamilton was leading a patrol through a rice paddy near the Cambodian border when his company came under attack. He was immediately wounded by small-arms fire and an explosive booby trap, leading to his evacuation from the battlefield. Hamilton commanded the White Falcons in the invasion of Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury in 1983.
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Steven L. Payton. Throughout his military career, he made it clear that he was not concerned about the number of awards he achieved or how many times he was recognized, the news release said. He spent hours going to motor pools to mentor young paratroopers. As a forward observer for Bravo Company 1-504th PIR, Payton parachuted into Torrijos International Airport in Panama during Operation Just Cause. Payton and the paratroopers he worked encountered a multitude of rapid deployments. While serving as first sergeant in Bravo Battery 1-3191h AFAR, he deployed his battery to Operation Iraqi Freedom where it provided close combat fires and counterfires in support of Task Force Panther in and around Fallujah, Iraq.
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie A. Thorpe, a native of Tarboro, North Carolina, joined the Army on May 24, 1971. He attended basic and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. His first duty assignment was from October 1971 to December 1974 as a scout observer, team leader, and squad leader with the 1-504th Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg. In June 1999, he served as commandant of the Fort Bragg NCO Academy until becoming the 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major.
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Yates served multiple tours in the division spanning two decades. During that time, he held leadership roles from platoon sergeant to brigade sergeant major. Before the realignment to the modern Combat Aviation Brigade, Yates helped set the conditions for a smooth transition to modernize the force. Yates deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the 1-17 CAV as the squadron sommand sergeant major. Later during the same deployment, he filled the role of brigade command sergeant major, serving in both positions simultaneously until the brigade redeployed. He remained command sergeant major through the brigade’s next deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning, Yates provided guidance and leadership as the 82nd Aviation Brigade transitioned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
- Retired Sgt. Maj. Edward A. Bell was critical in the transformation of standing up 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, in 2006 with the oversight and property management of more than $500 million worth of property he was responsible for. While serving in 307th Field Support Branch, Bell’s attention to detail and technical competence was critical in the logistics operational readiness. As a member of the 1st Brigade Task Force Combat team from 1993 to 1996, he took part in the combat preparation for Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994 to liberate Haiti from a military regime. Under Bell’s leadership as the 82nd Sustainment Brigade command sergeant major, his organization deployed in support of Super Storm Sandy relief and numerous other natural disasters including the Haitian earthquakes in 2010, along with numerous Joint Operation Axis Exercises preparations as a part of the Global Response Force.
- Sgt. Owen B. Hill was one of the storied noncommissioned officers who understood the overall intent of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. Upon landing in Beauzville-au-Plain, Hill formed a Little Group of Paratroopers that succeeded in blocking German forces from being able to reinforce at Chef-du-Pont. In the early morning of June 7, 1944, several German tanks maneuvered in from the west. The lead tank halted just on the edge of Hill’s hedgerow, unaware of the paratroopers just meters away. Hill crawled along next to the tank and threw a grenade into the hatch when the German commander raised up for a better view. In Hill’s words,“The German popped out like a champagne cork.” The tanks retreated.