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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, June 17, 2024

by William Hamilton, J.D., Ph.D.

Saving General Dermann

Even after yours truly retired from Active Duty, Fate gave us one more opportunity to snatch some fellow soldiers from the cruel jaws of military personnel mismanagement.

Nebraska Secretary of State, Allen Beermann -- yes, the one who gave me the Elvis Tux -- called to say, "Bill, rumor has it that you would know how to fix military education problems.

"You see," Allen continued, "Some of Nebraska’s National Guard officers are about to be kicked out because they do not have college degrees."

Oh, my! Getting a few college credits for some young helicopter pilots who had flown in Vietnam was relatively simple compared to arranging for college degrees. But I promised Allen to try.

Fortunately, Columbia College in Colombia Missouri was looking for adult learners and quickly agreed to establish a Lincoln, NE, extension campus with yours truly as its first Adjunct Professor. Once again, Penny, AKA Wonder Wife, would serve as our Registrar and student.* But the task would demand more than just the two of us. The officer-students would need many more subjects than just my offerings in History, and Political Science.

Our first task was to survey the college transcripts of the dozen Nebraska Guardsmen. Some needed more credit hours than others. Some needed more of one subject and had too much of another. The staff at Columbia College was very helpful in sorting this out

Luckily, we found some professors over at the East Campus (Nebraska’s A&M College) who agreed to teach Accounting, Business Administration, and other practical disciplines. The National Guard Armory would provide nighttime and weekend classrooms.

The Guardsmen already had quite a few college credits. So, in essence, our small cadre was filling in the gaps until they had enough credit hours to meet the requirements for a Columbia College B.A. degree.

Typical of adult learners, attendance was perfect and all worked hard, to earn either an A or a B. Oue of the brightest students was Lt. Colonel Ken Dermann whose 1944 play at Guard for Nebraska was interrupted by U.S. NAVY minesweeper service during WWII.

Indeed, all of the Guardsmen had their college careers interrupted by either WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. Some, more than once.

With their college sheepskins proudly nailed to their office walls, the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. had no choice but to back off. None of the Guard officers were kicked out for lack of a college degree.

But the icing on the cake for Penny and me did not come until 2015 when she and I were invited to come from Colorado to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to each receive its Alumni Achievement Award.

Ken Dermann was at the awards banquet to see his son, Robert, receive the same award as we. But Ken said he was also there to see us.

Recall, when the Army Guard was threatening to cast him aside, Ken was a Lt. Colonel. Ken Dermann retired as a Brigadier General!.

So, 34 years later, our eyes welling with tears, the three of us reunited in a group bear hug. Two years later, he was gone.

* In 2013, Penny Hamilton, Ph.D., was invited to Columbia, MO, to receive the Columbia College Distinguished Alumna Award.

©2024. William Hamilton.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:

Email: drwm.hamilton@gmail.com

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