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East Texas minister, World War Two veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Published: Nov. 6, 2021 at 6:53 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas man received a huge celebration for his 100th birthday from a thankful community.

He is a World War II veteran and a longtime minister in the city of Big Sandy. People turned out today to celebrate his century of life.

At the Big Sandy Civic Center, hundreds turned out for the 100th birthday of Jack Hetzel.

“I could not miss this opportunity to come and celebrate with him. Incredible, unbelievable guy. Fifty-five years I’ve known him,” said friend and fellow minister Jerry Groom.

Hetzel survived some of the bloodiest battles of the European campaign.

“Five major campaigns. The battle of Normandy. Cherbourg. Across France. The Battle of the Bulge was the last one,” Jack said.

The longtime United Methodist Church minister joined the Army with little education and really wasn’t seeking the ministry.

“I had been fighting the ministry, didn’t want to be a preacher. I went into the military with a 3rd-grade grammar school education, I do everything backward. I wound up teaching the equivalent of four years of administration. That’s how I got started. My life today is the ministry,” Hetzel said.

“I was a young soldier when I came into Germany. Jack taught me ministry, there which he was deeply involved in,” Groom said.

Hetzel went on to teach at Texas A&M and more.

“Then I got my doctorate four years ago, and I graduated from high school this year,” he said.

He was honored with a flag presented by the naval cadets and a flag that flew over the nation’s capitol from Congressman Louis Gohmert.

All in all, he feels he’s led a charmed life.

“I say there’s one word. And that word is Jesus,” Jack said.

Hetzel was wished a happy birthday by his 102-year old-brother and numerous pastors that came from across Texas for his celebration.

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