By Dr. Thomas Karnowski
USACE Far East District
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea - Col. Philip A. Keller, Col. Michael D. Nyenhuis and Lt. Col. Mitchell A. DeMarais celebrated their upcoming retirements at a hosted dinner and friendship ceremony held at the W Wedding Hall in Pyeongtaek on Friday, April 22, 2016. Together, the three officers had more than 95 years of service.
The event honored the officers was more than just a spectacular meal, it was also an opportunity to share personal feelings.
Col. Keller was the acting KPRO chief and full-time Design Construction Agent when I arrived in Korea. A veritable encyclopedia of knowledge, he brought me up to speed within several weeks, while doing his duties as the DCA.
Col. Nyenhuis was the “master of the chess board,” fixing what had been broken within the Land Development, Utilities and Infrastructure branch. Taking a strategic view of the program, he calmly untied the Gordian knot bit by bit: one piece of road at a time; installing small segments of utilities; moving fences; chasing seemingly tiny problems that held up untold amounts of construction; he made his mark "eating the elephant," one bite at a time.
Lt. Col. Mitch Demarais has been our "go to guy" for training, reports, administration and awards. Our team is glued together by the friendships and working relationships that Mitch has helped build, whether in uniform or as his alter ego, the “BBQ King.” When I needed contact while moving from Germany, Mitch provided the details that made my move possible. When new people joined our team, Mitch welcomed them and helps them to help themselves.
I want to thank each of you for all the good things that you have done for our nation over the last 30 years. You have served honorably and with distinction, but most importantly you have served. There is something special about serving others; those who don't cannot possibly conceptualize the value of what they are receiving from those who do serve.
The military represents a cross section of the American culture. We mirror society as a whole, but with a great exception. Regardless of our values, our politics, our economic separations, we all understand that we serve knowing that our patriotism crosses all boundaries and that there is something far greater than ourselves. It gives our lives purpose.
Winston Churchill once stated that "the Reservist is twice the citizen." Since 1908, members of the Army Reserve have taken on responsibilities greater than those required of most citizens, sacrificing weeknights, weekends and summertime leisure to learn, train and prepare for the day when their country might call upon them in time of war or national emergency. (Twice the Citizen, a History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908-1983).
Thank you for your selfless service and your dedication to the greater good. You are and will remain our friends for life.