KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While David Hodson’s father served in the Army Air Corps during World War II on a bomber. In August 1968 David joined the Marines and would serve in two wars.

After 26 years, he retired from the Marine reserves as a Sgt. Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank.

“Shortly after I graduated from high school, I went to boot camp, school, right straight to Vietnam,” Hodson said.

He was assigned to an artillery unit with the 1st Marine Division. His regiment would see combat. However, during one of those battles in Vietnam, his best buddy from boot camp, Arthur Horaga, was killed while standing next to David.

“I wanted revenge. I never got it, but I wanted it. I know where he is at today,” Hodson said.

Three Hodson brothers served in the Marines, and David returned to Vietnam for a second tour. He was told not to wear his uniform home in 1970 at the height of the anti-war movement.

He wore it anyways.

With Honor Air in 2018, David and fellow veterans visited the Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC, where he found Lance Corporal Horaga’s name.

“I looked up and started counting, 24 rows down. It was so high, I couldn’t even touch his name and I lost it. I finally got to pay my respects. Hold to a friend,” Hodson said.

The headline in December 1990, “Knox Marine reserves ship out for training, awaiting Mideast assignment,” caught everyone’s attention. First Sgt. Hodson assembled his 150 Marines from Company D, 4th Combat Engineers in Knoxville, and made a vow.

“I said if you will pray every single day for us. I said I will promise you we will go before our Lord every single day, and I know if we do that, we will come back home together.”

David Hodson

Keeping his word, Company D cut a chapel in the Iraqi sand, and unit preachers led the services.

“Even during the war we took 15 minutes out. We knew that was the time to ask God to protect us. He did. He sure did, he brought us back home,” Hodson said.

Back home, every member of Company D returned to East Tennessee in late spring 1991.

“It was ah, the greatest welcome I ever had. I’ll go to my grave thanking everybody for taking the time to come out and welcome me home that day,” Hodson said.

After several successful civilian careers, Hodson is now a court bailiff, he continues serving.

“I’ll die as a Marine, sir. I am proud to be a Marine.”