Cpl. Thaddeus Hodge has had three jobs in his life. He worked at McDonalds, served in the military and is a 20-year-veteran of the Federal Way Police Department.
Hodge served in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1997, before joining the newly formed police department, where he still works today.
“I was out of school. I was still living at my parents house,” Hodge said of his decision to join the military. “My mother came to me and said, ‘Son, you’ve got three choices. You are going to school full time, you are going to get a job full time and move out or you can go in the military.’ I didn’t want to go to college — I was done with school — so I went to the military.”
Hodge’s father and grandfather both served in the Army, so he followed their footsteps when selecting the branch he would join.
He enlisted as military police, and after completing basic training was sent to his first duty station in Bremerhaven, Germany.
“That is where all the ammunition and tanks and everything was shipped into Europe, so my unit was assigned to secure the port whenever things came in,” he said.
This was during the Gulf War, so the port was busy receiving shipments to be sent to the frontlines.
After three years in Bremerhaven, Hodge became a special agent with NATO in Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium, where he protected a four-star admiral.
“It entails what Secret Service does with the president — plain clothes, advances on areas, do threat assessments, travel with him, just basically his personal body guard, protected his house at night.”
After three and half years with NATO, Hodge moved to Fort Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was assigned to the drug suppression team of the criminal investigations division.
When Hodge got out of the military, the California native and his family decided to stay in the Pacific Northwest.
Law enforcement wasn’t a career path he had considered, but his military experience made him a good fit for the civilian police force.
“Growing up, I didn’t like police. I didn’t like police officers at all,” he said. “Growing up in Stockton, California, I felt I was being profiled and picked on all the time.”
Two decades later, Hodge is pleased his career took the course it did.
“I’m glad I do what I do,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. God directs you in certain directions, and this is just where he directed me.”
Going from the military to the police department was an easy transition, Hodge said.
The Federal Way Police Department employs 54 veterans – 51 commissioned offers and three civilian staff. The department has 126 commissioned officers and 29 civilians.
Although Hodge didn’t see combat during his military service, he is glad he served.
“I think everyone should serve their country, especially the military,” he said. “Especially for a young man or a young female who has no direction, the military is a great institution. It gives you direction. It gives you stability. It matures you quite a bit.”
For Hodge, Veterans Day is about honoring those who sacrificed for their country.
“I served in the military, but I didn’t go out there and fight,” he said. “I am not injured from the war. I was just there. Veterans Day, to me, is really honoring those people whose lives were lost for our country. Those are the ones that I consider deserve this day.”