By Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAO
Soldiers Reflect On 'Golden Year'
(August 15, 2009)
Sgt. Glenn Eller (left) and Spc. Vincent Hancock, both assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, each won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. This week marks the one-year anniversary of their accomplishment. The Soldiers have been on the road ever since, telling people to follow their dreams and how the Army can help make that happen.
Photo by Mike Badger
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 11, 2009)
They still can't believe
it. They can't believe it's been one year since they did it, since they won
Olympic Gold medals in the sport that has engulfed their lives.
They can't believe how fast a year can go.
The Soldiers dreamt of winning gold medals at the Olympics and sharing it with
their families and friends.
Those dreams didn't include sharing it with the country. They didn't comprise
meeting the president and vice-president. They didn't consist of throwing out
the first pitch at a baseball game or jumping out of a plane. They didn't
include becoming heroes to the nation's youth or a Soldier deployed in combat.
U.S. Army Marksmanship Soldiers Sgt. Glenn Eller and Spc. Vincent Hancock
embraced all that comes with being crowned Olympic champions the only way they
knew how: with the dedication, expertise and professionalism instilled in every
Soldier at the USAMU.
While there will be no gold medals for what they have done in the time since
their triumph, it may end up being more valuable than the medals around their
"I still can't believe I did it," said Eller, who won gold in the Men's Double
Trap Aug. 12, 2008, setting an Olympic record along the way. "I remember how
nervous I was, but reality never set in on
what I was doing until it was
over. It's still all kind of surreal right now."
Hancock already had a world record in Skeet but had been aiming for Olympic Gold
since the age of 10. On Aug. 16, he fulfilled that dream and also set an Olympic
"I don't remember much besides breaking the final pair and holding my gun up
because it was an accomplishment that I had been dreaming about my whole life,"
he said. "Thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. It's just awesome."
The Soldiers returned to the United States after the games and hit the ground
running. They met then-President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.
They had lunch with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They made small talk with
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Gen. George Casey Jr., Army chief of staff.
And that was only the beginning.
"The first six months were completely hectic," Eller said. "We were traveling
from city to city, going to NASCAR races, visiting high schools, colleges -- you
name it and we were there. We were showing people that your dreams can come
"It was tough being away from my wife so much," Hancock said. "We've only been
married since May of last year so being gone from her for the first half-year of
our marriage had been kind of difficult."
Beside being away from loved ones and friends, they were also taken from two of
the reasons why they are successful -- their training and the unit.
"A lot has been asked of them and they definitely rose to the occasion," said
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Coffey, USAMU shotgun team noncommissioned
officer-in-charge. "They shared that victory with other Soldiers. They showed
young adults and teenagers that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
It shows that we're Army strong.
"It's neat to see how that individual accomplishment affected so many. Our
brigade commander, Col. Fred Johnson (Accessions Support Brigade), was telling
us how he was deployed overseas and one of his Soldiers was holding a newspaper
illustrating a fellow Soldier had won gold and his Soldier raved 'The Army won!'
That's the team spirit of the Army. We always come together as a team."
Had the Soldiers been full-time Olympic athletes or civilians, the past year
would have been jammed with endorsements and uninterrupted training time to
continue enhancing their skills. Instead, Eller and Hancock were handed the
reigns of the Army accessions wagon.
"People ask me if I regret joining the Army because I could have made a lot of
money this entire time," Hancock said. "The Army helped me get to where I am.
Here, I know I have the right training and the right people pushing me.
"Being here has given me a lot of stability and something to lean on. It's given
me a drive and helped me set my goals. I don't regret it at all."
The Soldiers accomplishments showed the American public the professionalism of
the Army, but also validated the expertise of the USAMU to those inside the most
powerful military organization in the world.
"If I train Soldiers here before they deploy, and then they go back to their
unit and train their guys, then I just helped an entire unit raise their combat
readiness," said Eller. "And everywhere we go, we instill positive impressions
of the Army. That may help prospective candidates in their decision to enter the
The Soldiers didn't train for four-to-five months after the Olympics due to
their mission for the Army. It was the longest they both had gone without
shooting since they started as youths and they agree it affected their results
in competitions early in the season. But now things have calmed down and their
focus has returned, evident by Hancock winning his first national championship
last month in skeet.
The duo is currently in Slovenia competing in the World Championships. They both
said they now have a plan to get back to that podium in London in 2012. But they
know being a Soldier and the mission always comes first. At a moments notice,
they may be asked to grand marshal a parade or speak at a high school assembly.
"It's not easy, but I love it," Hancock said. "(The Army) is a great place to be
and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Their accomplishments away from the shooting range this past year will never go
documented and the effects may never officially be known. The gold medals,
however, are theirs for keeps.
They still can't believe it.
By Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAO
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