Hillen Seminar Room Dedication Remarks

Remarks by President Howard


Thank you, Chairman Allen, for your kind and sincere accolades.  Constructing new buildings-or renovating and expanding old ones-, recognizing exceptional accomplishments of others, and dedicating new facilities are among the best parts of my job as president.  How enjoyable and rewarding these acts are.  It brings me great joy and satisfaction to dedicate the Seminar Room in this stately building as the "Hillen Seminar Room."


But first, I must say a few words about The Honorable Dr. John Hillen, seated here in front.  I've known my dear friend John for almost 20 years since we first met at Oxford.  As a professional Army officer, he served for twelve years in duties which included reconnaissance and special operations and held assignments in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.  He is decorated for his actions in combat.


During 2005-2007, he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs in the Bush administration.  He is President and Chief Executive Officer of Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc., a leading national security affairs firm.  I am proud and we are fortunate that he is a Trustee of Hampden-Sydney College.     


John's father, John Francis Hillen, Jr., was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York.   He graduated from the City College of New York in 1959 and joined the Army.  Lieutenant Colonel Hillen was a highly decorated, tough former Army Ranger and Green Beret, who served two tours in Vietnam.  During his career, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.  As a major on his second tour in Vietnam, he was aboard a helicopter in 1970 when he spotted movement in the treeline below him and ordered the infantry into the area.  He directed the pilot to aim the chopper's spotlight for marking fire at the enemy.  As the ground troops moved in, enemy soldiers fired on the helicopter, seriously wounding the major. "Despite his wounds, Major Hillen continued to direct the helicopter's fire until he lost consciousness," his citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross says.

He received a master's degree in Middle East studies from George Washington University, and became fluent in the language and culture of Iran before his deployment there.  He had a keen ability with languages, learning Vietnamese and Farsi before his deployments to Vietnam and Iran, respectively, and practiced the Chinese martial art of tai chi.

After his tour in Iran, Colonel Hillen joined the Middle East Institute and other policy and scholarly forums.  He retired from the Army in 1979.  In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, his military decorations included the Purple Heart.

Lieutenant Colonel John F. Hillen, Jr., was the quintessential officer and leader.  He is an extraordinary role model for students in our Wilson Center programs.  We are extremely proud to have this room named the "Hillen Seminar Room."   


At this time, I will read the citation on the Dedication Plaque which is displayed in the Hillen Seminar Room.



LTC John F. Hillen, Jr., 1936-2009


The Honorable Dr. John Hillen



A native of New York who came to make his home

in Virginia, LTC Hillen served for 20 years as a

US Army Infantry and Special Forces Officer.

A highly decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War,

he also served in Germany and Iran.

A Master Parachutist and Army Ranger,

he is one of the few non-pilots to be awarded the

Distinguished Flying Cross for heroic actions in combat

while commanding an airmobile operation in Vietnam,

a mission on which he was severely wounded.

During his career he was also awarded the Legion of Merit,

the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Vietnamese

Cross of Gallantry, the Combat Infantryman's Badge,

and numerous other awards and decorations. 



A truly amazing warrior...an honorable man...a loving husband and father...Colonel Hillen was indeed a soldier, statesman, leader, and scholar.