ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio - Ohio University recently joined the ranks of G. I. Jobs' Military Friendly Schools, according to a release by the magazine. The designation annually recognizes 20 percent of post-secondary institutions for commitment to military and veteran students and is compatible with the original mission of Ohio University's regional campuses, including the Eastern Campus, which was created in large part to serve returning veterans of World War II.
Nearly six decades later, this original mission of providing easy educational access for veterans is alive and well at Ohio University Eastern. Current student and veteran Darrel Johnson is one shining example of the success of this mission.
Johnson grew up on a small farm outside of Quaker City and graduated from Buckeye Trail High School as well as the Guernsey Noble Career Center in 1991. "I was your typical country boy with a passion for hunting, fishing and being outdoors," said Johnson. "Our family was very close and I was most fortunate to have been raised by James and Julie Johnson, two of the best parents anyone could ever ask for."
After high school, Johnson bounced around from one construction job to another before deciding to join the Army in March of 1995. Over the next twelve years, he rose from vehicle mechanic to the rank of Staff Sergeant, supervised a company maintenance team in the war in Iraq and was responsible for equipment and vehicles valued at over $30 million dollars.
"Looking back now, joining the Army was one of the best decisions of my life," said Johnson. "I was surrounded by great leaders who influenced me tremendously. They helped me to realize that I could accomplish anything in life. I am currently a disabled veteran, but I would do it all over again if given the opportunity as I greatly miss working with America's finest."
Johnson is also grateful to the Army for introducing him to his future wife. "I met Erin while I was stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas," he said. "I am proud to say that she is also an army veteran, serving as a medic when we met."
Darrel and Erin decided to move back to Ohio following his career in the service in order to be closer to his parents and to raise a family of their own. They settled on Fairview, which is a short distance from his childhood home in Quaker City. The couple has six children: Casey, 20; Darrel, 18; Chance, 17; Dalton, 8; Leeland, 5; and Cadence, 4.
Through the G. I. bill, Darrell began attending college classes soon after returning home. He transferred to Ohio University Eastern in 2011 to pursue a bachelor's degree in social work and is on schedule to graduate this May.
According to Dr. Warren Galbreath, associate professor of social work, Johnson has excelled as a student at OUE. "Darrel is an asset to the social work program at Ohio University," said Galbreath. "He has a lot of juggling to do with his family responsibilities, but he has persevered and our social work students really look up to him as a result."
Galbreath continued, "Darrel's passion for working with veterans is demonstrated in his dedication to his education. His military experiences plus his social work values and commitment to helping those that are less fortunate are an excellent foundation for work with any veterans program."
Johnson is equally supportive of Ohio University Eastern and Dr. Galbreath. "I would recommend OUE to anyone, especially my fellow veterans," he said. "The quality and personal attention that I have received at the Eastern Campus is really remarkable."
"In particular, I am most grateful to my faculty advisor, Dr. Warren Galbreath. Dr. Galbreath has worked tirelessly throughout my time at OUE to ensure that I met the requirements of the program while working full time and raising a family. He is an inspiring instructor and tremendous leader in the social work program."
Ohio University Eastern Dean Paul Abraham is thrilled by the synergy between the student and faculty member. "Darrel and Dr. Galbreath provide a great example of the ideal two-way street nature of education," said Abraham. "Dr. Galbreath's expertise in the field and mentorship has had a big impact on Darrel's education and professional development. At the same, Darrel's life experiences and enthusiasm to help others has enriched Dr. Galbreath's classroom and the experience of other social work students. They both have much to be proud of."
As if being a husband, father and full time student was not enough, Johnson decided to run for, and ultimately, win the office of mayor in Fairview in 2012. "My goal as mayor is to continually strive to make as many improvements as we can within our community," he said. "I am proud to say that we are making progress. With the help of donations and grants, we have a new tornado siren and the main road through town is set to be repaved soon."
Johnson finished, "My goals are to finish my bachelor's degree at OUE, attend graduate school at the main campus and one day work for the department of veteran affairs. A career in politics might also be an option. With my military experience and Ohio University education, I feel like I have the tools to accomplish anything I set out to."