A war hero with local roots was honored recently for a lifetime of public service.

Dr. Richard Kimball Watkins, a Huntsville native, former US Army captain, Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was celebrated on Dec. 20 with a flag flown over the United States Capitol. Kimball was recognized for relentless commitment to his country, family, career and community.

The honor was an unexpected and emotional surprise for the Watkins family, who first learned of the recognition when the flag and a certificate were presented at their home a few days after its flight.

“I was very humbled,” Watkins said. “I come from a family of givers and service, so I wasn’t looking for any recognition or anything. It was just amazing. You go through life sometimes and don’t realize the things that you’ve done until you have a chance to look back. I guess this was an opportunity to reflect on some of the things we’ve been involved in.”

The recognition was orchestrated by Congressman Al Green and the Ninth Congressional District of Texas.

Green, who came to know Watkins through their work with veterans, has reserved the tradition of having flags flown over the capitol “for special people and special occasions.” Watkins and his wife are co-founders of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church’s Veterans Ministry in southwest Houston.

“Dr. Richard Watkins is an extraordinary person that I am proud to know and work with as I serve the veterans of the Ninth Congressional District of Texas,” Green said. “I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Dr. Watkins years ago when he was the President of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church Veterans Support and Assistance Program, which he helped found. Dr. Watkins was instrumental in helping other area churches start similar veterans ministries, and he forged a relationship between the communities of veterans at these churches and my office.”

In addition to his work with veterans, Watkins has served the Walker County community for a significant portion of his life.

Watkins has served as a board member, trustee, founder or commissioner for over a dozen local clubs, organizations and committees, including the Huntsville School Board and Walker County Housing Authority.

After graduating from Samuel Walker Houston High School in Huntsville, Watkins received a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M, an MBA from Texas Southern University and a Doctor of Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He also served in the military during the Vietnam War, and was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Air Medal with eight-oak leaf clusters after his helicopter was shot down during the Tet Offensive.

For Watkins’ daughter Monica, it was a truly special moment to witness her father being recognized for a lifetime of service.

“It was really unexpected, but it was well-deserved,” Monica Watkins said. “My dad is such a huge inspiration for all of us. Just what he’s done for his country as a veteran, but also what he’s done for his community and beyond. ... Our family is just incredibly proud of him.”