Lonnie Dale Vona of Valrico has made a career out of his time in the U.S. Army. He was recently inducted into the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Program) Cadet Command Hall of Fame.
“If you’re good at something and you like doing it, run with it as long as you can,” Vona said. “I ran with being a cadet/soldier for 48 years.”
Vona is a native Floridian born in Jacksonville and raised in Tampa.
“Our family business was shrimping out of Tampa,” Vona said. “I graduated from Plant High School and USF. I was commissioned in the Army through ROTC. I married college sweetheart Kathryn and we have four kids. I served in the Army until mandatory retirement of 30 years. I served from 1972 to 2002.”
In the Army, Vona was an airborne ranger infantryman primarily focused on two things: fighting the Russians and commissioning lieutenants in ROTC.
“My operational deployment was during the Hungary/Bosnia Campaign,” Vona said. “I led soldiers from platoon through the brigade level. I served in a mechanized infantry division, an armored division and an airborne division. I was special operations assignment with USSOCOM at McDill AFB in Tampa.”
Vona retired from active duty and stepped right into a teaching job at Hillsborough High School. “The opportunity to open a new program at Newsome High School came to me nine years ago,” Vona said. “I retired from teaching in 2014 after wearing uniform for 42 straight years. I’m now active in veterans groups supporting ROTC.”
The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held its annual meeting and exposition this past October at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. During the convention, U.S. Army Cadet Command inducted its Class of 2021 Hall of Fame inductees; all inductees had earned their officer commission through ROTC.
The Army recognizes the significant role played by Army ROTC graduates in the defense of the nation. ROTC produces more than 70 percent of the Army’s Officer Corps and continues to play a vital role in preserving America’s liberty.
“ROTC has been an important part of my life since high school,” Vona said. “I was a junior cadet in high school, a senior cadet in college. As a captain, I was an assistant professor of military science at Furman University; as a colonel, I was a ROTC brigade commander [for] three states and a high school senior army instructor in Hillsborough County. I did it all, circle of life, and did it well. The hall of fame induction was a perfect culmination of my life’s work. It was a tremendous amount of pride and feeling of accomplishment.”