A man from Vienna feasted on barbecued camel while discussing military strategy with the Emir of Kuwait in a tent in the middle of the desert.
“It must of have been an amazing sight!” said Jeremy Ämick, prolific author and chronicler of veterans’ lives.
The desert diners were hammering out details of the pending invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The man with the emir was Maj. Gen. Henry “Hank” Stratman, a now-retired two-star general and current member of St. Andrew Parish in Holts Summit.
His intriguing odyssey through the fields of battle and diplomacy is the subject of Mr. Ämick’s latest book, A Global Warrior, published earlier this year.
A graduate of Visitation Inter-Parish School in Vienna, Maj. Gen. Stratman is the highest ranking military officer to have graduated from Lincoln University’s ROTC program in Jefferson City.
“He came from a meager, humble German Catholic background in Vienna and rose to the impressive rank of two-star general,” said Mr. Ämick.
He did so while competing against men and women with Ivy League and West Point credentials.
“He’s proud to say that as a graduate of Lincoln, he was well prepared to excel in all of his assignments,” Mr. Ämick stated.
Mr. Ämick found out about Maj. Gen. Stratman shortly after he purchased the old Warwick Village complex on East McCarty Street in Jefferson City.
“Around that time, someone told me, ‘This two-star general has returned to the area. He served in the Persian Gulf War,’” Mr. Ämick recalled.
The author obtained the retired general’s contact information and interviewed him for a newspaper feature.
Their paths continued converging at veterans events and did so again in 2018.
Mr. Ämick had written a biography of the late Maj. Gen. Don D. Pittman, a graduate of the old St. Peter High School in Jefferson City, and was presenting a framed image to the school’s successor, Helias Catholic High School.
Maj. Gen. Stratman was there to assist with the presentation.
That day, they talked about possibly working together on Maj. Gen. Stratman’s biography.
“He said he didn’t want to do it in a manner of bragging about his achievements, but to have his story serve as an inspiration to people in similar circumstances and coming from modest backgrounds and say, ‘If you work hard and dedicate yourself, you can rise to the heights of whatever career field you choose,’” said Mr. Ämick.
The prolific author was in the middle of another project at that time but promised to follow-up with Maj. Gen. Stratman when it was finished.
“I met with him about a year later, and here we are,” said Mr. Ämick.
They quickly discovered the commonalities of their backgrounds.
“Hank and I both come from a rural background,” said Mr. Ämick, whose roots are near Russellville.
“He’s a faithful German Catholic, I’m a faithful German Lutheran,” the author continued. “He came from modest means, raised in Vienna, Missouri.”
Financially, the general’s parents didn’t have a lot, “but they were a very rich family in terms of their spirituality and how they connected to one another,” said Mr. Ämick.
The general’s parents “scrimped and saved” to send him to Visitation School in Vienna.
He excelled in sports and academics throughout high school.
Graduating at the height of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, he assumed he was about to get drafted.
“He decided that he might as well go as an officer,” Mr. Ämick noted. “He got a partial scholarship to Lincoln U.”
He flourished in ROTC, got married while still in college, and signed up for active duty.
The Vietnam War had ended by then, so the future major general wound up serving in Korea and Germany.
He specialized in nuclear artillery, including the Lance tactical ballistic missile system.
His first big engagement came during the Persian Gulf War (1991-92).
“That was one of those moments in history like the Spanish-American War (1898), in that it happened really quickly and has almost been forgotten but was very important in the grander scheme of things,” Mr. Ämick noted.
Maj. Gen. Stratman was a division battalion commander and led one of the artillery invasions.
He then served on two peacekeeping missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The capstone of his career came during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-11), where he helped establish the theatre of war.
“All around us”
Maj. Gen. Stratman chalks up his success to hard work and good luck.
“And as a devoted man of faith myself, I understand that by ‘luck’ he means God’s hand helping to guide you a little bit,” said Mr. Ämick.
The general is also a man of faith and family.
“He would be quick to tell you that he would not be where he is or have been able to achieve what he did without the assistance of his wife, Linda, throughout his entire career,” Mr. Ämick stated.
The general and his wife relied heavily on each other throughout his career.
“All those times he was deployed, away from home, or at school getting those promotion opportunities, she was back home, taking care of the kids, getting them to their appointments, making sure everything was going all right, and she was working (outside the home),” Mr. Ämick stated.
That’s why Mr. Ämick and Maj. Gen. Stratman agreed to dedicate the book to both of their wives.
“My wife is my biggest cheerleader, so I definitely have to thank her for that,” Mr. Ämick said.
As a U.S. Army veteran and the son of a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Mr. Ämick has interviewed hundreds of veterans and written as many or more articles about their life-defining acts of valor.
He said sharing veterans’ stories helps them find a renewed pride in their service and what they have accomplished.
He hopes it also helps inspire young people to consider taking up careers in public service.
“Not necessarily the military but something of benefit to society,” he stated.
He relishes the art of storytelling.
“I have not only an inclination for it but a talent for it,” he said. “God wants you to embrace and utilize these talents for the greater good. And I feel that’s what I’m doing.”
Hardly a day passes without him doing some writing, researching or interviewing.
“It’s kind of like juggling a dozen cats,” he said.
In conducting nearly 1,500 interviews, Mr. Ämick has found nearly as many reasons why people decide to serve in the military.
“Many didn’t have a choice,” he noted. “They were involuntarily inducted thanks to the draft mechanism. Some joined because they had a loved one or parent who was a military member.
“Some didn’t have job opportunities at the local level,” he said. “Some joined to get specific types of job training or to pay for college. Some joined because they’re very patriotic.”
He agrees that it’s good to pray for people who are serving in the military or are considering doing so.
“Pray that the Lord places His protective garment around them and keeps them safe and returns them to their family safe — physically and mentally and spiritually,” he suggested.
Having been in the Army himself and prayed for a son who’s currently deployed in Poland, he noted that some people become lax in their faith while separated from the Church community that helped raise them.
“You don’t want them to lose that faith in difficult situations or fall away,” he said. “You pray that the Lord keeps them steadfast in faith and returns us home to us safely.”
A Global Warrior, a 300-page book, lists for $20.99 and is available at Downtown Book & Toy in Jefferson City and at amazon.com.