Claremore VFW dedicates statue to Medal of Honor recipient

CLAREMORE, Okla. — On Sunday, Claremore’s JR Hooper Memorial VFW dedicated a statue to their namesake, Joe Ronnie Hooper.

It’s taken about 14 years to get a 300-lb bronze statue of Staff Sergeant Joe Ronnie Hooper built, but it was actually COVID that helped make it happen.

After the lockdowns, re-opening the post tripled its income and enabled members to pay for the creation of the statue.

William Richey was the post commander for 22 years.

“The minute we opened back up, we tripled our income,” Richey said, “We made so much money these last few years, we were able to really get this going and finish it up.”

Determination is the expression that Claremore artist Sandra Van Zandt wanted to emulate in the statue after researching his life.

“You can’t read his citation without thinking Rambo or something like that because he was unbelievable,” she said, “I learned a lot about him and he was quite the prankster, I believe, and you couldn’t keep him out of a fight.”

Hooper was awarded 2 Silver Stars for gallantry, 6 Bronze Stars for heroism, 8 Purple Hearts, the Congressional Medal of Honor and many others.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel John Rahe was the keynote speaker and today’s unveiling. He said those awards made Hooper a national hero as well as a local one.

“He got 8 purple hearts. That means he was injured on 8 separate occasions,” he said, “There’s only one other person who’s served who has more purple hearts. Yes, certainly, anyone who has earned the Medal of Honor is a national hero.”

That is something these members do not want to be forgotten.