If you’re a veteran in Florida’s seven-county area along Florida’s Treasure Coast, there’s a good chance the dispensing of your prescription medication was overseen by a living legend.
Born in October of 1960, Norman “Hoot” Hooten has lived a busy life. Trying out for the US Army Special Forces in 1981, he spent five years as a Green Beret until leaving in 1987 to join America’s most elite fighting unit: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, better known as “Delta Force.”
On a fateful day in October of 1993, Hooten would find himself smack dab in the middle of the Battle of Mogadishu, when the shoot-down of two 160th SOAR Black Hawk helicopters would forever change the lives of over 160 American fighting men serving in Somalia- in the end, 18 Americans would not return alive.
Hooten played a significant role in the event, his actions later immortalizing him in a 1999 book that would later inspire the 2001 film, Black Hawk Down, in which he is played by Eric Bana.
Prior to the Global War on Terror, the Battle of Mogadishu would long be considered “the” modern warfare encounter in the late 20th Century, particularly for Americans.
Retiring in 2001, Hooten attempted to start pharmacy school but was recalled to service after the 9/11 attacks. Once again putting in his time for the nation, Hooten eventually was allowed to hang up his helmet and go back to school in 2012.
“The more I gave to the Army, the more I got back,” the 57-year-old former operator told West Palm Beach area station WPTV.
“Because of the things I had seen in very close friends and family members, I was much more inspired the second time around,” he said.
For Hooten, being a pharmacist allowed him to take on a second, more personal war: taking care of veterans amidst an opioid abuse crisis, a serious issue which took the lives of some of his close friends.
“To me, even more difficult than losing them in combat. Because in combat, I could make sense of that,” he said. “A lot of them suffered from addiction and I lost several friends to fatal overdoses related to their substance abuse.”
Despite being much older than most of his peers, Hooten never gave up. Digging deep within himself, he stayed the course and proved to be an inspiration for his peers.
“It’s a very personal thing for him,” said Dr. Donna Beehrle-Hobbs, an ambulatory care clinical pharmacy specialist. “Certainly at 57 years old, to do everything he’s done is a true commitment to veterans.”
A large chunk of Hooten’s residency took place at the West Palm Beach VA Hospital, a place he is proud to have worked at.
“Great leadership here. Great mentors here. Very fortunate to have been able to spend my time here,” he said. “Once I got into the VA, I realized just how truly impactful they are on the lives of veterans. I don’t think there’s any organization in the world that as much as the VA does for veterans.”
Soon, Hooten will be known as “Dr. Hooten,” and already has a job lined up at the VA hospital in Orlando.
While the tools and uniforms have changed, the mission remains the same for the old war horse.
“My belief is it’s never too late. You should keep trying to contribute and learn and grow and give back until your last dying breath,” Hooten said.
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