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Galen Napier Is September Veteran Of The Month

Galen Napier was honored as Jefferson County’s Veteran of the Month on Tuesday, September 5, 2023. He was also presented with a hand-made wreath by Marley Rosener.
Napier was born January 9, 1946, in Fairbury, to parents who lived in Fairbury.
Even though he was a town kid, Napier spent as much time as possible at his grandparent’s farm just east of town and hauled his share of square bales for spending money.
Napier attended one year of grade school at Powell, and the remainder of his K-12 education was spent in the Fairbury Public School System. While in high school, he participated in football, basketball, tennis and F Club. The members of the tennis team were state champions two years and Napier was a state doubles champion one year. After high school graduation in 1964, Napier attended two years of college at Fairbury Junior College, majoring in business.
In 1966, Napier received a letter from the U.S. Government stating: “His friends and neighbors had selected him, with a draft notice.”
Napier did not want to be drafted, so instead he enlisted. He got on a train in Omaha and went to Fort Bliss, Texas, for basic training. He became a squad leader in charge of 10 other recruits. After graduation he was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana, for Advanced Individual Training.
While at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Napier volunteered for “Jump School” and was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for several weeks of physical and specialized training. This training involved starting with jumping from a 24-foot tower on a zip line and advanced to a 250 foot tower with a specially designed parachute. From there, Private (E-2) Napier got to make his first five jumps from a perfectly good airplane.
After completing the mandatory five mile run, without falling down, Specialist (E-3) Napier received his “Jump Wings.” He enjoyed jumping so much that he jumped every chance he could. From there, he was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne, but shortly thereafter volunteered to transfer to the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles at Fort Campbell Kentucky.
When Napier reached his new assignment, the whole division began packing up for Vietnam. They drove their jeeps and other equipment aboard an airplane. The most comfortable seat in the plane was the jeep seat, so Napier jokingly tells people, “I rode in a jeep across the Pacific Ocean to South Vietnam.”
After Napier’s unit landed at the Long Binh Air Base, they mainly were assigned to security duty at night. After a couple of weeks his entire unit moved and established a completely new division base camp in the Heu-Phu Bai area in the northern part of South Vietnam. While in that area he got to participate in “Search and Destroy” missions and conduct several nighttime escorts for convoys moving supplies from one location to another. Partly due to his business training, he worked for the Judge Advocate General and was assigned special duty going from place to place by helicopter with the Inspector General.
During his time in Vietnam, Specialist (E-5) Napier was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster from his Division General. After returning home before Christmas, 1968, he was assigned to Fort Bragg North Carolina for the remainder of his enlistment. Specialist Napier received his separation papers in August, 1969. Additional medals for Specialist Napier include: National Defense Medal, Parachute Jump Badge, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
In September, 1969, Napier attended the University of Omaha and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education, taught four years at Lewis Central Schools and was hired to teach in the Fairbury Public School System in 1976. He began teaching in the West School, now the City Museum, and was gradually moved eastward in Fairbury schools as they were closed or torn down. Napier taught all subjects, except music, and was involved with boy’s junior high basketball, freshman girl’s junior varsity and varsity basketball.
After retirement in 2004, Napier continued to coach for a few years. Now he spends time with family, horses, helps farmers and is active in the Five Star Bible Camp each summer at Camp Jefferson that accommodates up to 300 local youth. He is also a life member of VFW Post 3113 and member of the Elks Lodge 1203. Currently, Napier and his wife, Laurel, of over 54 years, live in rural Jefferson County on a portion of land his Grandparents once owned.
Written by Doug Kapke


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