by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33°
We gathered in the southeast corner of the Armory on the University of Illinois campus last month, to honor the latest two inductees to the University of Illinois Army ROTC Hall of Fame. On the wall were the pictures of previous inductees who were Illinois alumni and had made significant contributions while serving in uniform and protecting our freedom serving in conflicts from WW 2 to the recently concluded Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The two inductees on this particular day, were both veterans serving during the Vietnam Era Conflict.
Captain Fred Ranck was commissioned into the US Army in 1967 as an Infantry Officer serving in the 101st Airborne Division as a platoon leader and company commander. He served multiple tours in Vietnam and was a highly decorated combat veteran, earning two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars with a “V” device for valor, four Purple Heart medals for combat wounds, two Air Medals, and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. He later also served his community as a Boy Scout leader and a lifetime member of the 101st Airborne Association where he has served as President.
The second inductee was Colonel Bennett Hart, who was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the US Army in 1968 but served primarily in the Military Intelligence branch on active duty until 1972. He continued his service in the US Army Reserve for another 26 years. He commanded at the company, battalion, and brigade levels in the US Army Reserves. He later served as Deputy Director of Army Intelligence Agency during Desert Shield/Desert Storm and supported the development of the Army’s Force XXI equipped Blue Force Tracking into command and control of combat operations. He also served over 15 years in the Senior Executive Service aiding the Intelligence and National Security efforts in the Department of Defense. He has over 50 years total of supporting the defense of our nation.
I was extremely honored to witness both Captain Ranck and Col. Hart being inducted. I don’t know how you can adequately thank individuals who have done so much to ensure our freedom.
But this day was also extra special because it was due to Freemasonry that I got to know Bennett to begin with. We are both from the same county in Illinois, and both of us are actively involved in Scouting and are very active in Freemasons. It was thanks to a mutual friend that I met Bennett one time on a visit to Washington DC.
Midnight Freemason Founder Todd E. Creason 33° and I were participating in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Masonic Week 2017. Bennett, who now lives in the Washington DC area and I were corresponding about meeting up with one another and decided to meet at the Arlington National Cemetery where we would be laying the wreath.
Thanks to Bennett, we were able to have the wreath-laying videoed and I later turned it into a Youtube video that can be seen here.
While Bennett and I shared much in common in our backgrounds such as the same basic hometown, both Eagle Scouts and involved in Scouting, and both involved in public service, we didn’t know each other. It was thanks to Freemasonry that we became friends. That powerful bond that transcends time, geographic boundaries, occupation, etc. is what sets Freemasonry apart from any other fraternal organization in the world.
Gregory J. Knott, 33° is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D., and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.