After more than 33 years with the Georgia National Guard, 25 of them full time, Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Hearst is hanging up his camouflage fatigues.
Hearst, known to many as the father of former University of Georgia and NFL running back Garrison Hearst, will retire from the Guard on Aug. 31.
"I'm excited about it," Hearst said of his retirement. "I've seen lots of changes over the years."
When he joined the Guard in Washington, Ga., in 1978, manual typewriters were still in use, he said.
"It's been a good ride," he said in an interview last month at the armory in Thomson, home of Battery B, 1st Battalion of the 214th Field Artillery, where he has served as training NCO and readiness/training NCO.
Except for a training exercise in Norway in 1993, the unit has remained stateside, he said. It was mobilized in March 2003 and assigned to homeland security at Fort Bragg, N.C., after training at Fort Campbell, Ky.
If he had it to do over again, Hearst said, he would have gone to officer candidate school or become a warrant officer. But he really has no regrets.
"I couldn't have written a better script," he says.
Although he's looking forward to retirement, he says he'll probably just take some time off before eventually returning to the workforce. He has a degree in management, he says.
"I don't want to just sit down anyway," he says.
For years, Hearst says, he was known as "Garrison's dad." Since his son's NFL career ended in 2004, he's again become known mostly as Johnny Hearst, he said. Younger members of the unit aren't as familiar with his son's career, he said. But those years were "very exciting" for him, he said.
When the unit went to a four-day week in the 1990s, he worked Tuesday through Friday, which allowed him to attend many of his son's games.
Garrison Hearst, who starred at Lincolnton High School, spent 12 years in the NFL, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers, after playing for Georgia from 1990 to 1992.