Dean Hockney is the Voice of the Jackrabbits and a Voice for Veterans
Dean Hockney has always been a big sports fan – baseball in particular.
“I played it as a kid and have always loved it,” says Hockney, the public address announcer for the Kokomo High School (KHS) baseball team, and the part-time sports information director for KHS.
When the Kokomo Jackrabbits came to town, he was a natural fit to become the voice of the semiprofessional baseball team.
“Having the best seat at Municipal Stadium is pretty nice,” says Hockney, who has announced close to 400 games for the Jackrabbits. “I get to see some of the greatest college talent. It’s a blast. I have one of the best jobs in the city.”
Hockney has set a goal to visit every Major League Baseball stadium in the U.S. He’s already hit 17. For 10 years, Hockney owned the Sports Journal of Central Indiana. He was named the top sports column writer in the state by the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and earned a national writing award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
“Sports writing is one of my passions I’ve retired from,” says Hockney, 54, who in March of 2021 became the Howard County Veterans Service Officer, helping veterans and their families access their benefits.
According to Hockney, Howard County has more than 6,000 veterans, making it one of the most populous counties for veterans, per capita, in Indiana.
“We welcome veterans who come in with PTSD,” Hockney says. “That was not something that was diagnosed in previous eras like the Vietnam War. Vets tended to hide [their pain.] Now [the military] wants you to be forthright with your struggles. Our guys are coming back having seen atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan that most people can’t understand. They’re watching IEDs blow up vehicles, killing their friends, and rockets coming into camps.”
Assisting veterans is near and dear to Hockney’s heart, as he is a veteran.
Born and raised in Kokomo, Hockney graduated from KHS in 1986 and joined the Air Force in 1990, where he served as a fuel technician and accountant. In 1997 he was refueling a mobile truck in the desert. He climbed up on the truck tread and got caught up in the fuel hose. He slid off and his foot got stuck, causing him to fall backwards and tear his meniscus.
“I’ve been dealing with that injury ever since, but I loved my military career,” says Hockney, who feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel the world and see places he never would have experienced if not for the military.
For instance, he was stationed in Turkey for two and a half years, and Italy for two years. He lived for a year on Shemya Island, a remote island in the Pacific Ocean in the Aleutian Islands.
“Basically spying into Russia was the mission,” Hockney says. “Seeing a Russian submarine sitting on the coastline, knowing they are looking at you, is kind of creepy yet kind of cool at the same time. Not many people get that experience.”
On one side of the island is the Bering Sea, and on the other the Pacific Ocean. This means the island is consistently cold and foggy, and sunshine is elusive. When the sun would occasionally peek out, the base commander would call for a “sun day.”
“We’d go outside and grab the bats to enjoy the sunshine because we knew it wasn’t going to last,” says Hockney.
Extreme wind was another issue.
“When it was windy and icy, we would literally have to string ropes between buildings to walk,” Hockney says. “The snow wouldn’t stick. It blew right off the island because there were no trees or grass to catch it.”
Hockney, who served from 1990 to 1999, says the most challenging aspect was having to constantly be on call.
“You’re on government time,” Hockney says. “You don’t know when something may happen, especially when you’re stationed overseas.”
Back then there were no cell phones or email, and he spoke to his parents just once per month.
He recalls serving in Turkey between 1992 and 1994. He participated in Operation Provide Comfort, for which the military provided supplies and humanitarian aid to defend Kurdish refugees fleeing their homes in northern Iraq.
“The operations tempo was 24/7,” Hockney says. “We were busy all the time. Working long hours is tiring, but the payoff is knowing you are defending our freedoms and the freedoms of other countries.”
Hockney had been out of the service for two years and working as the sports editor for the Kokomo Perspective when 9/11 happened.
“That got a lot of us fired up,” Hockney says.
Though he was itching to re-enlist, he wasn’t able to, due to his knee injury. In 2004, however, the United States was building its presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. They had job openings, and for Hockney the urge to serve was still there. He was hired to serve the Army on a logistics contract for two years. After being home for just two months, he was called back for another three-year job. He served as the director of communications, public relations and public affairs for the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III civilian contract, which included a workforce supporting military personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Republic of Georgia, and Djibouti.
“Our company did all the Army’s logistics – their chow halls, laundry services, camp maintenance and transportation,” says Hockney, who named his Jack Russell terrier Tallil, after his time spent in Tallil in Baghdad.
“Tallil was one of their bases that had a great pizza place,” Hockney says.
Hockney has traveled extensively during his 54 years. For starters, he’s visited all 50 states, hitting his final two, Mississippi and Louisiana, during his 50th year of life. His parents helped give him a jump-start on travel.
“My dad, who was an educator, believed in taking trips so we covered a lot of states when I was young,” Hockney says. “Then I hit a lot of them like Hawaii and Alaska during my military time.”
Nevertheless, like a boomerang, he keeps coming back to Kokomo.
“People are friendly,” he says. “Business is good. There are great sporting venues. Kokomo is just one of those places where when you leave, you want to come back, and when people relocate here for jobs, they tend to stay. Kokomo used to be known as just a car-making town, but now we have the trails and park system. Plus, there’s a big arts culture here. We’ve done a lot of beautification of the city.”