After returning from the Vietnam War, Army Col. Gregg Hammond said he struggled to integrate back into society because he felt alienated. Since serving in Vietnam and eventually Iraq, Hammond said he learned how to cope with society, both as a veteran and a citizen. When Phi Kappa Sigma initiated him Saturday, Hammond said he had an opportunity to share his experiences with a young group of people.
Hammond, a native of Peru, Indiana, graduated from IU in 1979 and served about 33 years in the Marines and Army. Sophomore Jake Olson, the fraternity’s president, said the 167-year-old initiation kept with traditions at Bryan Room in the IMU.
The standards and traditions reminded Hammond of the Army after he retired in 2009.
“I started to research it after I retired and I found the values of Phi Kappa Sigma to be almost identical to the Army’s core values.” he said.
The fraternity’s local chapter, the Delta Pi chapter, recognized the colonel by initiating him along with 14 other young men in their winter class. Hammond said he never had an opportunity to join a fraternity while at IU or any other institutions, but he remembered one of his classmates being a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma and enjoying his experience.
He said he contacted their national headquarters and was put in touch with IU’s chapter. The fraternity, Hammond said, consisted of a mature bunch of young men. He said being allowed to join a group of competent young men was a great experience.
“I thought it was an incredibly great honor,” Hammond said.
Olson also said he thought the initiation went well and that he enjoyed the atmosphere of the evening.
Hammond received many decorations during his time in the military, including a Bronze Star Medal with Valor in Vietnam, for his work as a combat medic. Olson said it was a great honor for the chapter to be allowed to initiate the colonel.
He said the colonel is a highly decorated man who was not obligated to associate with their fraternity but chose to anyway.
“He could have contacted any national organization,” Olson said. “And he picked our organization, there was something special he saw in us.”
He said it was a morale boost to know the colonel did his research, contacted their national headquarters and reached the Delta Pi chapter at IU.
Olson said he also thought it demonstrated the chapter’s principles of being good citizens. He admitted that, like many students at IU, his chapter likes to party, but he said partying was not all there was to his fraternity.
“It’s all about the brotherhood,” Olson said. “It’s all about the guys you’re going to make life long friendships with.”
Hammond said it was these ideas of friendship and camaraderie that reminded him of the Army. The values of the fraternity and the Army blended together so well, he said he now look forward to working with his new brothers.
Hammond sees a need for veteran leadership in the fraternity and around the community. He said leadership and advising would be most important for current and future veterans.
“I would possibly like to set up a mentorship program and start a fraternity outreach program,” Hammond said.
His struggles after returning from Vietnam, Hammond said, are why he would like to help young people facing something he knows all too well about.
“It has been a real honor to have an opportunity to be part of the Delta Pi chapter, Hammond said. “I look forward to good things in the future.”