Written by Arnold Braswell
Jim and Joyce Hesson grew up in St. Paul and were best friends in high school, both graduating in 1949. When the Korean War began in 1950, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army with the goals of getting an officer’s commission and becoming an Army aviator. The Army ruled that he was too tall for flying and his second goal was not satisfied. He was an enlisted man for two years and served a tour in Austria. He was commissioned in July 1952 after attending the Engineer OCS, and he and Joyce were married three days after his graduation. Jim returned to the U.S. in 1953 from six months’ duty in Korea when hostilities there ended, then resigned from active duty and joined the Army Reserve.
When the Army eliminated the height restriction for pilots he entered aviation training in 1957 as an Army Reservist, received his wings as an Army aviator, returned to active duty and began a productive career with increasing levels of responsibility in various Army aviation assignments. He served two one-year tours of duty in Vietnam, the second one as commander of the Aircraft Maintenance and Supply Battalion located at Camp Eagle, north of DaNang. He received medals for flying missions exposed to enemy fire.
He had several assignments to the Army staff in the Pentagon. However, his longest assignment was from 1975 to 1982 in St. Louis, where he was project manager for the CH-47 modernization program and then deputy commander of the Troop Support and Aviation Readiness Material Command. In 1982 Jim was selected as the Army Program Manager of the Year and promoted to the grade of brigadier general. His final assignment was in the Pentagon as Director, Plans, and Analysis under the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. Regrettably, Jim was medically retired in 1982 because of faulty heart surgery received at Walter Reed hospital.
Throughout Jim’s career, Joyce was not only a loving and extremely supportive wife and the mother of their four children, she was also a great asset in helping to advance his career. Without her love and moral support, he says, he would not have been as successful in his career. She was a “rock” for their kids during his long and frequent absences and a consummate hostess for social activities related to his job when he was at home. She was an active community supporter everywhere she and Jim lived. As the children grew up, she entered the real estate profession and was very successful, both in the suburbs of St. Louis and in Northern Virginia.
The Hessons remained in the Washington area for 16 years after retirement and then moved to Sarasota, FL. In both places, they continued to be active in many volunteer pursuits. Jim served as president of the Army Aviation Association of America for two years and continues to serve on its board of directors.
Jim and Joyce have two sons with families, one in the local area and one in Alabama, plus an unmarried daughter living in this area who suggested that they should consider Falcons Landing. Another daughter with a family died from leukemia at age 53. They now have 8 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Please welcome the Hessons; they are great additions to our community.