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Married to the military: Elk & Elk honoree, wife served 20 years in Army

Hills have been married 42 years, after meeting while serving in Germany.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Whenever Gedtson "Bill" Hill wears his black Vietnam War veterans cap, he usually draws a "thank you" or two from those who notice.

If he's with his wife, Leslie Hill, he'll give them a surprising reply.

"Women in the military don't get a lot of recognition or respect, so I'll say, 'Thank you for thanking me, but she did 20 years also,'" Hill said, referring to the 20 years both he and Leslie served in the Army. "They all go, 'Wow, that's pretty unique.'"

The Hills, as a couple with a long military history, are indeed a rare breed.

They saw a number of marriages break up while they were enlisted, often because of distance, but theirs lasted - in no small part because they stayed together at each duty station, starting out with the Army's Signal Corps.

They've been married 42 years and were stationed in various locales, including Germany - where they met - and Alaska, their final stop before Leslie retired in 1994 and they moved to Las Vegas.

The Hills, who enjoyed an honorary Elk & Elk Military salutes night for Bill at the Blue Jackets' home game Dec. 9 at Nationwide Arena, have four kids and seven grandchildren. They've also got some interesting memories from spending much of their adult lives serving the country together.

"We were all in 'Signal,'" said Leslie, 63, who retired from the Army five years after Bill, 69. "He did multi-channel and I was a radio teletype operator. That was my job, with Morse Code. We got married in September 1975 and by May of [1976], I had my first son. It all went pretty quickly. I ended up having a kid at each duty station we were at basically."

They met in 1975 while serving in Germany, as part of the Army's Signal Corps. Gedtson, who goes by the alias 'Bill,' for ease of pronunciation and spelling, volunteered for his Army service in Vietnam, prior to being drafted.

"Instead of doing that, I went down and said, 'Look, I want volunteer,'" he said. "They said, 'You want to volunteer?' I said, 'Yeah,' because I knew I was going to get drafted, and in those days, if you got drafted, unless you were a really educated person, you were either going to be a cook or infantry. And I didn't want anything to do with it. So, I volunteered and went into Signal. Then I met 'Les' in Germany."

They met during an intense training exercise, when Leslie's Charlie Company was actually captured by Bill's Bravo Company and held as "POWs" (prisoners of war).

Following the training drill, Bill wanted to know more about Leslie. He went to her barracks to find her, but discovered she wasn't there.

"What ended up happening was I caught [mononucleosis]," Leslie said. "I was living in the barracks, so they have to put you in the hospital, because they don't want everybody else to catch it. He came looking for me one day, I guess, and we really didn't know each other too well at that point. Somebody told him I was in the hospital, so he got a vehicle, drove up there and came to see me."

Bill was her only visitor that week, in fact, and they hit it off. He invited her to the NCO Ball as a first date in the Spring, by July he proposed and by September they were a married couple.

"We were going to get married in December, but we decided, 'Why wait?'" Leslie said. "When you get married in the military, you get money to live off base, money for food, all that kind of stuff."

You also get a life partner, kids and grandkids. One of those grandchildren is the main reason for Bill being honored at the Blue Jackets' game, when he stood next to anthem single Leo Welsh, smiled and waved to the crowd.

READ MORE: MILITARY SALUTES PRESENTED BY ELK & ELK

The Hills' grandson, Aiden, is 12-year old hockey fan, who keeps his grandparents informed about everything related to the Blue Jackets. His passion for it puts a smile on their faces.

"He's probably the biggest fan they've got," Leslie said. "He loves hockey so much. His Christmases the past two years have been nothing but hockey stuff."

His enthusiasm for the Jackets has also rubbed off on his grandparents.

"We've really started to enjoy the Blue Jackets and we cheer them on now, just like any other team," Bill said. "We really enjoy it. My grandson knows everybody's name, what they do and that just drew us closer to what type of sport it is."

They also have fond memories of Bill's big night at Nationwide Arena, when Leslie stood behind the glass and tried to snap a few photos of her husband on the ice before the game.

"The team came in that way, too," she said. "That really shocked me. I didn't know that. They came in and walked right past me, so that was pretty cool."

Feeling appreciated was too, for both them. They're proud members of the American Legion, as well, and will never forget their military service.

"That was fantastic," Bill said of his honoree night. "I'd never gone to a game in my life. Everybody was so nice and friendly. The people appreciated it. I couldn't believe it."

Leslie feels the same way.

"It was just really cool," she said. "For years, it wasn't like that. You'd get out of the Army and they just weren't real receptive to it. There, people were thanking us for our service and it just really touched us a lot."

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