A History of Service Continued
Upon returning from Vietnam, Chuck and Tom both enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Omaha under the G.I. Bill. Chuck found a calling in history and was quickly pulled towards a career in government and politics. A few short years later, with a degree under his belt, Hagel headed off to Washington, D.C., looking for a position in government. He found it working for Nebraska Representative John McCollister.
Through McCollister, Hagel became connected with the upper echelons of the Republican Party and by 1980 Hagel was working on the campaign for Ronald Reagan. After he was elected, President Reagan hired Hagel on first as a member of his Inaugural Ball Committee and then nominated him for Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. Hagel gladly accepted the positions.
During this period Chuck Hagel assisted in a project to commemorate the fallen and the veterans of the Vietnam War. By March of 1982 Hagel was breaking ground with fellow veterans on the Mall in the location where the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall now stands.
In 1990, Hagel had the opportunity to pursue another area of service. President George H.W. Bush called on him to be Chief Operating Officer for the G-7 Economic Summit in Houston, Texas.
While Hagel was Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration for only a short period of his life, his dedication to supporting veterans as well as maintaining the history and memory of the Vietnam War has been a cornerstone of his life's work. For instance, a few years after stepping away from D.C. and politics, Chuck Hagel found himself as president and CEO of the United Service Organizations. In his three years as president, Hagel managed to save an organization that provided assistance to U.S. military personnel and their families around the world from floundering and collapsing. Later, Senator Hagel continued to support endeavors to assist military personnel and their families by acting as co-sponsor on Senator Jim Webb's "21st Century GI Bill" which passed Congress in 2008, expanding education assistance to veterans who served after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Hagel also maintained a connection to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as he is seen speaking at the 10th Anniversary of the dedication of the memorial in November of 1992 and later at the 25th Anniversary in 2007. His dedication to preserving the memories and honoring Vietnam veterans was a prevalent part of his career as U.S. Senator, during which he was co-chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Corporate Council. He also attended and spoke at many different events held at the Wall as well as across the country commemorating Vietnam veterans.
Hagel has participated in programs preserving and honoring veterans' memories as well. He was a particpant in the History Channel's "Take a Veteran to School Day" in which he spoke to students at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska about his experiences serving his country. He and Tom Hagel have also been a part of the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.