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A statue of Joe Ronnie Hooper stands tall outside the Jr. Hooper. Memorial VFW Post 2976.

An 11-foot bronze statue of one of the most decorated Vietnam veterans stands tall outside the JR Hooper Memorial VFW Post 2976.

The VFW unveiled the statue of their namesake Joe Ronnie Hooper this week.

Hooper is one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War having earned 37 medals, including two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Past Commander Bill Richey said the Post has been in Claremore since 1938, and they renamed it after J.R. Hooper in 2010.

“The membership decided it was appropriate that we did some honor him because very few VFWs – or any military organization like the VFW – are honored with a member who has been presented with the Medal of Honor,” Richey said. “Most of them are or are dead when they get it.”

Hooper began his military career in the Navy at 17 years old. After being honorably discharged in 1959, he joined the Army. Hooper received his Medal of Honor during his second tour of duty in Vietnam during 1968's Tet Offensive at the age of 29.

He was a sergeant in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division when his squad was attacked northwest of Hue City, South Vietnam.

Over the course of seven hours, Hooper would cross open fields under enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers, single-handedly storm and destroy over five enemy bunkers and destroy three buildings with enemy shooters. The Army also credited him with killing 115 North Vietnamese fighters, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Hooper retired from military service in 1974 and moved to Claremore.

Richey said the conversation to have a statue began in 2010 with the renaming of the Post, but was unable to happen due to the $80,000-90,000 cost.

Richey said they sold bricks, applied for grants and did everything they could to raise money, but COVID is what actually made this project possible.

“When we opened back up, we started immediately tripling our income that we had from before,” he said. “Not really knowing why and I don't have a reason for it besides people were getting tired of being cooped up and decided to get out and start spending money.”

With the money in hand, the Post commissioned Sandra Vanzant to design the statue.

“He was an action figure,” Richey said. “That's what he was about – was action.”

Richey said he believes the statue will draw in tourism.

“There's been no statues made of and to honor him as a hero,” he said. “Building this statue, and present it for the public and for our members, gives the Post more pride.”

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