Operation Enduring Freedom is more than just a phrase for Doug Heckman.
It's a hard reality for the East Coast director of institutional business development and client services in WestLB Asset Management's Atlanta office. Mr. Heckman, a lieutenant colonel reservist in the U.S. Army's Special Forces, was sent to the "Afghanistan region" one week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his first taste of combat after nearly 21 years of active and reserve Army duty.
After graduating in 1981 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Mr. Heckman served seven years on active duty, most of it as a member of the elite Special Forces. His last active duty assignment was as an Special Forces A-team commander at Fort Bragg, N.C., specializing in the Middle East. After leaving active duty, he earned an MBA in 1989 from Duke University and joined WestLB early in 2001.
Months later, he was helping fight the war against terrorism.
"I'd just taken a new position, but after 9/11, like any red-blooded American, I was ready to serve my country at the drop of a hat," Mr. Heckman said.
Although hesitant for security reasons to discuss his exact duties and location, Mr. Heckman was awarded the Bronze Star, a combat award, before returning to the United States in February.
While he is proud of the award, Mr. Heckman is equally pleased with a humanitarian award he received for coordinating the parachute delivery of 10,000 tons of food and supplies to Afghan refugees whose lives were disrupted by the war.
Mr. Heckman has spent the last seven months after his return from overseas duty serving at the Special Operations Command Headquarters at Fort Bragg. He just returned to Atlanta and went back to work at WestLB Oct. 7. He remains a member of the active reserve in Atlanta, where he is responsible for West Point recruiting in the metropolitan area. But he could be activated for duty again if military action is undertaken against Iraq.
For now, the Pennsylvania native and Atlanta transplant looks forward to returning to his money management marketing duties. However, he said, he is ready to do it again if necessary.
"It was a great year from an introspective standpoint," said Mr. Heckman. "I found out what was important in my life. I found out that I could make money any time, but to serve my country like that was a privilege."