EMPORIA (KSNT) – Serving in multiple branches over three decades, Lieutenant Colonel Bill McKernan wore a lot of hats to say the least.

Hailing form the city of Veterans Day, Bill went after every opportunity to serve something bigger than himself.

McKernan started his decades long military journey in the Air Force Reserves, where he served for seven years.

“I was an air force security police officer and we did a lot of air base ground defense,” McKernan said, “which ironically was somewhat infantry based doing counter reconnaissance patrols and pulling guard. It was what I ended up doing in the Army. So that’s initially how I started out, which transitioned somewhat pretty well into my Army career.”

Bill went into active duty with the Army in 1993. He served as a Radio Telephone Operator, Squad Leader, in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, as a Battalion Operations and Executive Officer and seemingly everything in between.

“I grew to love it,” he said, “I grew to love my enlisted time, being in an infantry squad, the different positions I held there. One of my goals when I joined the Army was to go to OCS, Officer Candidate School, as my grandfather was a Commissioned Officer in the Army I wanted to follow in his footsteps. We ended up retiring at the same rank.”

Throughout the decades, the key responsibility that stood out to the Lieutenant Colonel, was leadership.

“I was told by a mentor of mine a long time ago that to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower,” McKernan said. “Learning how to follow really transitioned well into being a good leader, understanding you know what it’s like to be at the lowest level of the ladder if you will from an enlisted persons standpoint to where I finished up as an officer in the Army, and the decisions that you make as you progress up the ladder have an impact on those down the chain of command.”    

If that last name sounds familiar, Sarah McKernan was featured on Veteran Salute the week prior. The couple is enjoying living life in their hometown, where Bill works as the Assistant Vice President for Infrastructure at Emporia State University.