Vince Dooley’s career as a national-championship winning coach at Georgia made him a hero to many. However, Dooley stood alongside heroes of a different sort Saturday when he was inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Johns Creek.
Dooley, who served in active duty in the Marine Corp for two years after graduating Auburn in 1954, and in reserve service until 1967, was enshrined for a “lifetime of selfless service to others” according to a commendation read during the ceremony by State Senator Ed Harbison from Columbus.
Other inductees included eight veterans who won the Bronze Star Medal for valor, six who won the Silver Star, five who were awarded with Purple Hearts, three who earned Distinguished Flying Crosses, three who earned Prisoner of War Medals, two who were killed in action, one winner of the Navy Seal Trident and one NASA astronaut.
Dooley was characteristically humble to be included in the group.
“My service paled when you listen to what so many of the others had done,” Dooley said. “But I’m proud to be associated with them. It was a surprise to me [to be inducted].”
The moment was made more special for Dooley because of the presence of several of his former players who were in attendance for the ceremony, including several members of the 1980 national championship team.
“As time goes on, there are so many things that are important,” Dooley said. “You want to win. you want to have championships, and that will never go away. But the closeness of the players, they become more and more important each and every day.”
After the ceremony, Dooley was presented with a framed plaque to commemorate the moment by Steve Rodgers, the president of Servants Task Force
“There’s so much we could say about Coach Dooley,” Rogers said. “His life has been a blessing to so many people.”
In fact, Rodgers also says his organization is in the process of establishing a scholarship in Dooley’s honor to be awarded to ROTC students in the state.
It will be a fitting tribute for Dooley — who, in addition to a legendary coaching career, also takes great pride in his service to his country.
“The closest thing to a military group is a team of football players that bond,” Dooley said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to experience both.”