Ocala veteran named to Florida Veterans Hall of Fame
Craig Ham, current president of the Maron County Veterans Council, will be inducted Nov. 14 in Tallahassee.
Craig Ham of the Marion County Veterans Council speaks during the Memorial Day Remembrance and Honor ceremony at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, May 29, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Craig Ham, of Ocala, will be inducted into the State of Florida’s 2023 Veterans Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Tallahassee on Nov.14, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Florida Veteran’s Hall of Fame, established in 2013, recognizes veterans who, “through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the State of Florida,” according to Legislative Aide Damon Vitale, who filed Ham’s nomination on behalf of Sen. Keith Perry.
The nominated veteran “will have made a significant contribution to the state in civic, business, public service, or other pursuits,” Vitale wrote. Last year, 10 veterans were inducted.
Ham, who was traveling out of state, reacted to the induction in phone and email interviews.
“I am humbled by the selection, especially as I look at the contributions of others who have been so honored,” said Ham, 77, a native of Cassopolis, Michigan.
Ham wrote that his “value system” was shaped in part by his experience in the Boy Scouts, during which he attained Eagle Scout Rank in 1960 (and National Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, August 2021), the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and serving in the Army “in uniform with others who shared those values was a comfort,” he wrote.
Ham said he had four uncles who served in World War II and that they inspired him, “especially Uncle Jack, the Army Air Corps Veteran. I admired his work ethic in the family business, his outgoing personality, his sense of humor, and his sheer joy of living life to the fullest,” Ham wrote.
Ham said his father suffered an injury and could not “serve in uniform” but was an educator and coach and was active in community service through civic clubs and as chair of the local school board.
Ham recalls the “most satisfying experience” of his military career as “teaching at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“Paying it forward” while “serving as a Military Police Officer is a unique challenge since you must train for and execute distinctly different peacetime and wartime missions,” he said.
A biography supplied by Ham provided the following details of his 26-year military career: He served from 1969 to 1995 in the U.S. Army, with stints in Germany from 1969 to 1971 and Vietnam from 1972 to 1974. By 1976 he earned a master’s degree and served as a professor at West Point from 1976 to 1980. Ham served in Korea from 1980 to 1982, at Fort Leavenworth from 1982 to 1984, and in 1986 earned his doctorate in geography with a focus on urban, political, forensic aspects.
Ham provided orientation programs at West Point and served as a senior military policeman and in leadership positions for MP personnel in Germany and Korea. From 1986 to 1992, he served as a professor at West Point and from 1992 to 1993 was a visiting professor of military strategy and operations at the National War College in Washington, D.C. From 1993 to 1995, he again served as a professor at West Point. He retired on Feb. 1, 1995, and has an American flag that flew over West Point that day.
Ham’s military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (2) and more, along with a host of civilian honors.
Following his military retirement in 1995, he and his family settled in the Ocala area.
“My wife of 47 years, Vicki (a retired nurse) took a job as manager of the Books-A-Million store, and later managed the Family Care Specialists’ office,” Ham wrote. The couple have five children and 11 grandchildren.
After moving here, Ham continued to serve his community with Marion County Public Schools from 1995 until 2008, then returned in 2016 to serve as deputy superintendent of operations until 2018.
His civilian service included his election in 1996 as president of the Marion Education Association and in 2005 his election as Florida State Director of the National Education Association Board. Ham is first vice president and incoming president of the Kingdom of the Sun Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (KOS/MOAA. He is the current president of the Marion County Veterans Council, a primary sponsor of the Stuff the Bus program, along with affiliates including the On Top of the World Veterans Club, KOS/MOAA and Ham’s family. This school year, volunteers filled and delivered 2,023 backpacks—a $84,000 retail value—for local public schools students.
Joe Voge, a retired U.S. Army major, Gulf War veteran and president of KOS/MOAA, praised Ham’s dedication and tireless efforts for the association and local students.
“(Ham) makes an immeasurable contribution to local students and the veterans community. He is also the main man behind the scenes and the KOS/MOAA member who arrives hours before meetings and sets everything up. His contribution to the community is incredible,” Voge said.
Ham said many of his fellow veterans continue their service.
“I think you will find that many of my colleagues in the 50-plus military organizations in Marion County have adopted the ‘Never stop serving’ motto of the military Officers Association of America,” Ham wrote.
Kevin Christian, director of public relations for Marion County Public Schools, commented on Ham’s contribution to local schools and students.
“Dr. Ham has impacted thousands of students’ lives as a teacher, program developer, deputy superintendent, and community volunteer. His commitment to excellence leads others to succeed, and his continued efforts to contribute in meaningful ways beyond his years in the classroom are inspiring,” Christian stated. “We are grateful as a community to benefit from his many commitments and contributions.”