KOKOMO, Ind. — Military service is a three-generation tradition for the Humphrey family.
Jerry Humphrey and son Brian Humphrey now create a new family tradition, of earning Indiana University Kokomo degrees.
“With my bachelor’s degree, I will be able to move further in my career, and to be a leader,” said Brian, 26. “After I earn my degree, I want to get a pilot’s license, so I can be a pilot and an officer in the active duty Air Force.”
Jerry, who retired after a nearly 30-year career in the Air Force, is earning a bachelor’s degree in public safety, while working as a civilian employee at Grissom Air Reserve Base. He wants to work for the Department of Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency after graduating.
Brian is completing a degree in general studies while serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He wants to be an officer and a pilot in the active duty Air Force. Both expect to complete their degrees in 2017.
While Brian goes to college near the beginning of his career, Jerry, 48, waited until after retirement, though that was not his original plan.
“I originally enlisted in the Air Force to earn a college degree,” he said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to work towards. The mission and family come first. I wasn’t able to go to school until a few years ago.”
The Bunker Hill resident served 28 years, including deployments for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield in the 1990s.
He always kept the idea of college in mind, inspired by his own father, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was a retired coal miner in his 50s when he earned an associate degree.
“I tell my kids you’re never too old to get an education,” Jerry said.
Brian’s path to college was a little different. He enlisted in the Air Force Reserves after graduating from Peru High School, instead of going to college. He realized a few years later he needed higher education to achieve his military career goals.
“I didn’t think college was for me,” he said. “I’m a way better student now than I would have been there. The military has given me the discipline and focus to accomplish what I need to get done.”
Jerry was both “happy and scared” to have his son follow the family military tradition.
“You don’t worry about yourself, but as a parent, you worry about your kids,” he said. “I know what he can expect, and I can give my expertise on what to expect.”
Both are first-semester students at IU Kokomo. Jerry previously earned an associate degree from Ivy Tech Community College, and Brian also took classes there before transferring to campus.
Like his son, Jerry agrees that military service prepared him for academic success.
“I learned better time management skills, how to prioritize, do my best, and to ask questions when in doubt,” he said.
Brian works in civil engineering as a reservist, maintaining and operating the heating and cooling systems on the base. He’s not been deployed yet, but may be tapped for a tour of duty in England in 2016.
Brian is proud of his dad’s academic success, and wants his family to be proud of him.
“What I’ve accomplished as a student shows that anything is possible, if you put your heart and mind to it.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.