Charles "Chuck" Hagel was born on October 4, 1946, in North Platte, Nebraska. Before attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history, Hagel served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1968 and volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and other military honors for his time in Vietnam. In 1971, Hagel became chief of staff to Congressman John McCollister of Nebraska. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to serve as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration. Hagel then cofounded Vanguard Cellular Systems and served as its director until 1987. In the early 1990s, he worked as president of an investment banking firm.
From 1997 until 2009, Hagel represented the state of Nebraska in the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Senator Hagel was a member of the Foreign Relations, Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Intelligence Committees. Although he supported the initial resolution to go to war with Iraq in 2002, he later criticized the administration of President George W. Bush over its handling of the conflict. Hagel retired from the Senate after two terms. After leaving office, he served as a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Hagel as secretary of Defense. He was sworn in on February 27, 2013.