General Maxwell R. Thurman was born in High Point, North Carolina on February 18, 1931. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a Chemical Engineering Degree and went to work for a chemical firm in West Virginia in 1953. A few months later, he was called to active duty and was sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground for the Ordnance Officer Basic Course. He subsequently underwent the Artillery basic and advanced courses.
During his long and distinguished career, he served with or commanded airborne, light artillery, rocket, and infantry units. He served two tours in Vietnam and one in Europe, and was deployed to Lebanon during the Beirut Crisis of 1958.
One of the highlights of General Thurman's tour as Commanding General, U.S. Army Recruiting Command from 1979 to 1981, was his development of "Be all that you can be" as the new motto of his command. As Vice Chief of Staff of the Army from 1983 to 1987, he was instrumental in assuring that the Army build solid programs for acquisition and modernization. In 1987, he became the Training and Doctrine Command commander where he created a long-range training program and a new combat developments program. As Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command from 1989 to 1990, he directed Operation Just Cause, which ensured the transition of the Panamanian Government from a dictatorship to a fledgling democracy. General Thurman retired in 1990.