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Faces of Fort Hood: Willie Keller

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 20:51:18-05

KILLEEN, Texas — Most veterans are familiar with the VFW — and many Central Texans are a member of one. But did you know there's one located on Fort Hood?

It's in largely thanks to Willie Keller, U.S. Army veteran and commander of the Command Sgt. Maj. A.C. Cotton VFW 12209.

He's a man that always knew his path would lead to an Army uniform.

"My mom, she was working at Fort McClellan, in the DEFAC. So, as a kid, I was always around soldiers," said Keller. "They were out there running cadence and I was like, man i want to be a soldier when I grow up."

In 1994, that dream became a reality, and for more than 17 years, he proudly served his country.

Sadly, that dream came to an end while serving in Afghanistan.

"I just couldn't breathe," said Keller. "I just slumped over and a rocket came in and threw me into the building and I'm just laying there. I couldn't breathe. So, at that time, one of the medics came in a dragged me into the aid station and they got me out of their."

It wasn't long before he was medically discharged, ending his military service.

His service to his community and fellow soldiers, however, hasn't stopped.

"He is a hard working and dedicated individual that believes in taking care of soldiers," said Johuntas Hawkins, longtime friend to Keller. "He will do what ever he can to take care of soldiers. That's why when he started the VFW on Fort Hood, there was no stopping that."

Because Keller knew that the VFW is more than a place to grab a beer, he knew that having more access to soldiers on post would be invaluable.

"Knowing that if it wasn't for the VFW, there would be no G.I. Bill, there would be no SGLI, there would actually be no VA. A lot of the things that we, as veterans take for granted, is due the dedicated members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars," said Keller.

As commander of the only VFW on an active-duty military installation in the U.S., he has a message for the soldiers and families on post.

"We are part of you and you are part of us," said Keller. "All of us have decided to serve our country. So, be a part of an organization that is here to service you now and also our veteran communities of the future."

Keller is also on the National Legislative Committee for the Veteran's of Foreign Wars, making sure all veterans have voice fighting for their rights.