Brig. General Raymond J. Winkel Jr.
Brig. General Raymond J. Winkel Jr. (Handout, Baltimore Sun)

Brig. Gen. Raymond J. Winkel Jr., a retired career Army officer and a Vietnam War veteran who was chairman of the physics department at West Point for more than two decades, died Aug. 30 of cancer at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

He was 65.

The son of a civil engineer and a homemaker, General Winkel was born in Baltimore and raised in Gardenville.

He attended Polytechnic Institute and was 17 when appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

After graduating in 1967, he volunteered for service in Vietnam, where he joined the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as a combat engineer.

Three months into his tour of duty, he was severely injured while clearing a road of mines, which left him with two broken legs, a broken arm and fragment wounds.

While convalescing, he earned a master's degree in physics in 1969 from the University of California at Berkeley.

Despite lingering mobility problems from his wounds, he volunteered for another tour in Vietnam, where he commanded Delta Company, an engineering unit that was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Division.

In 1970, General Winkel returned to the U.S., where he held posts at military installations in Virginia, Kansas, and California, as well as Germany and Saudi Arabia.

He earned a Ph.D. in 1984 in physics from Berkeley and joined the physics faculty at West Point. He was named department head in 1987 and held the position until retiring in 2009 and moving to Silver Spring.

In addition to his classroom work, he carried out other overseas assignments in Australia, England, Iraq and Afghanistan.

General Winkel never graduated from high school, and at his Army retirement in 2009, he was finally presented with his Polytechnic Institute diploma.

"When the officials at Baltimore's Poly saw Ray's transcripts from West Point and Berkeley, they were confident he had more than met the requirement for graduation from Poly," said Brig. Gen. Richard Black at General Winkel's retirement ceremony.

He enjoyed traveling, was a connoisseur of fine wines and was a lifelong Orioles fan.

General Winkel donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

Surviving are his wife of 39 years, the former Sally Hajdu; a sister, June Hudak of Brookfield, Conn.; and several nephews and a niece.