May 29—For as long as he can remember, Max Hittle has always wanted to join the military. He said there was no particular reason for wanting to enlist, but it may have something to do with his father and grandfather.
"It's been kind of instilled in me," he said. "The military is something I've always wanted to do, ever since I was little. It's the first thing I remember. It was really my dad being in the Army. I think it was a big influence on me choosing to go as well."
The 18-year-old Tokay High School senior, who's set to graduate June 9, told his father of his intentions last year. His father John Hittle then spoke with his own father about the decision, who proceeded to detail the family's long history of military service.
"I had the conversation with my dad," John Hittle said. "He started getting into his father, and his father before him. And I was like, how far does this go back? He said he'd get the information. It goes all the way back to the Continental Army."
John Hittle served in the US Army in the 1990s, and his father Gary served in the US Navy and the Vietnam War.
In turn, his father Max was a US Marine and a World War II veteran, and his father Theodore "Bud" Hittle served in the Army. It was Theodore Hittle who brought the family name to Lodi from Louisburg, Kan., before his death in 1945.
William Henry Hittle, born in 1855, served in the Army, preceded by Isaac Hittle (born in 1824), who served in the army. His father Michael Hittle also served in the Army, and finally, his father George Michael Hittle served a private in the Continental Army.
"I didn't really know about my lineage," Max Hittle said. "I knew my dad and grandpa were in the military. I wasn't made aware of it until recently. I really went 'oh wow!' I didn't know it went back that far."
As a younger man, Max Hittle wanted to be a member of the infantry, But now that he has enlisted in the Army reserves and about to be shipped out, he has learned that he will be assigned as a combat medic.
After graduation next week, he said the plan is to take a year off, as he heads to Fort Sill, Okla. for his basic training. His advanced individual training will be at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex.
He plans to attend San Francisco State simultaneously while serving, and is currently undeclared.
"I'd like to retire and do the full 20 years (in the military)," he said. "I want to go into parks and recreation (afterward), and be a park ranger."
John Hittle's entry into the military is similar to his son's. He enlisted soon after high school at the onset of the 1990s. After completing basic training and advanced individual training, he also served in a reserve capacity, enrolling in SF State as well.
He joined the university's Reserve Officers' Training Corps, recieved a commission in 1995 and spent some time on active duty, including an assignment at the Demilitarized Zone in Korea for one year.
He left the military as a Captain, and is now a teacher with the Stockton Unified School District.
While he is glad he never saw combat or conflict, John Hittle said being stationed in the Demilitarized Zone was one of the best experiences of his life, and the hardest.
"In my experience, having served, especially on active duty in a formally deployed unit, you do prepare a lot for combat," he said. "We did a lot of patrols. I think they train you almost to the point where it's harder than, I hear, than combat. And when combat does happens, it's not such a shock to the system."
John Hittle said his father never spoke about his time in the military, except that he was a fire control technician in the Navy during Vietnam.
His grandfather also never spoke about his experiences in World War II, but a friend once disclosed some details that sounded traumatic, John Hittle said.
With the current political climate round the world, Max Hittle said both excited and nervous to become a member of the Army. While he doesn't think his unit will be deployed, he said he's prepared to serve the country if needed overseas or at home.
"It's definitely a time in history right now where tensions are pretty high, especially in the Middle East," he said. "We're pulling out of Afghanistan completely, soon, so there might be some affects from that. I'm just going in to support, if my unit does get deployed, I'll go. I have to do my job."
John Hittle said he's apprehensive about his son enlisting, and while he knows he is only a reservist at the moment, his military occupational specialty is needed not only worldwide, but in the United States as well, as units are deployed to hospitals to assist with COVID-19 duties.
"I do worry about this decision he's making," he said. "We did have a long tedious conversation about this, because he doesn't necessarily need to go. It's been his passion, his drive. We're supporting him, and we'll see what happens. We're proud of him."