Timothy Darrel "Tim" Hinkle
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index || US Army Veteran


by Justin Ozuna

For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. For all, it’s a day to honor the fallen men and women who first honored America, veterans who advanced, expanded and breathed life into the meaning of freedom and who’ve modeled the concepts of sacrifice, discipline and bravery to generations young and old. It’s a day to cherish the memories of our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, whose legacies we pass down through the display of American flags, Memorial Day parades and chorus of patriotic songs and tributes.

To some veterans, Memorial Day is a time of reflection, a vivid reminder of the personal sacrifices and losses of close friends, respected leaders and fellow servicemen and women. It’s a recall to the perils of war and fragility of life, once naïve concepts offset by the youth of invincibility, duty and commitment to country.

From 1975-78, Oncor Mexia Distribution Crew Supervisor Tim Hinkle served as an Army Combat Engineer for the 23rd Combat Battalion in the 3rd Armor Division during the Cold War. He is one of Oncor’s 222 military veterans that once served the country and now serve the communities in Oncor’s service territory.

For two and a half years, Hinkle and his division defended the strategic Fulda Gap that divided democratic West Germany and communist East Germany. As a Combat Engineer, he was trained to demolish strategic bridges and plant mine fields, tactics he would have needed to use to slow a potential advance from Eastern European forces. His unit trained in simulated exercises for half of each year and patrolled the Western Germany border the other half. The shared experience with fellow soldiers created an unbreakable bond that still resonates decades later.

“The guys I served with were like brothers to me,” Hinkle said. “The bond you acquire with those you train, live, eat and sleep with is one that’s never broken.”

For years, Hinkle and his battalion watched East German forces patrol a guard tower across the minefield that divided them. Hinkle said the border looked like the biggest prison he’d ever seen, miles of impenetrable fence manned by walking patrols with guard dogs.

“It was an experience. They’re looking at you through binoculars, and you’re looking at them through binoculars. You’re both patrolling your side.”

Because opposition forces outmanned the Americans by more than 100,000 troops, it was understood that should the Eastern Allies decide to invade Western Europe, the life expectancy of Hinkle and his fellow soldiers was a mere 12 hours. They were strategic mercenaries, a military failsafe should diplomacy between the American and Soviet Union superpowers collapse.

The conditions of deployment reinforced the squadron’s bonds of friendship and interdependence with one another. Those bonds were fully realized when Hinkle’s close friends were killed in a vehicle accident that occurred during a training exercise. A once seemingly invincible 18-year-old young man quickly awakened to the casualties of war.

“[The accident] impacted me. We had a memorial service for them and it really made me think,” he said. “That could just have easily been me. It was then that I realized that anything can happen to you at any time.”

Decades later, the bonds of military service still unite Hinkle with veterans he met while in the Army. However, what Hinkle is most proud of is his family’s long lineage of military service. Hinkle’s father is a Korean War veteran, his older uncle was a Prisoner of War for all of World War II, his younger uncle is a Vietnam War veteran and his son is a recent Iraqi War veteran.

“They’re the ones that are heroes,” Hinkle said. “They sacrificed way more than I did. They did what they signed up for and were trained to do. Every Memorial Day, I always think of them.”

On Monday morning, a bugle will sound a somber reminder of the lives lost through generations of American war and conflict. People throughout the country will solemnly glimpse into the same stars and stripes that, for generations, have lined the caskets of hundreds of thousands unsung local and national heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty and freedom. This Memorial Day, remember that we’re forever indebted to so few who have bestowed freedom upon so many.

Justin Ozuna began working for Oncor six years ago as a meter reader but transferred in 2013 to Oncor’s communications team, bringing a unique perspective to the team and The Wire. He is a long-suffering Dallas sports fan.


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Edward L. Williams