Donald Driggers Wraps Up a Dutiful Career
During these uncertain times throughout our nation, one thing remains certain: the opportunity for retirement after a long and distinguished career serving one's country is rather welcomed. This appears to be the case for retired U.S. Army Colonel Donald P. Driggers, M.P.H., a senior subject matter expert for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md., who begins a new chapter of his life after nearly half a century of dutiful service.
After launching his military career as an ROTC cadet reservist with the U.S. Air Force in 1965, Driggers switched uniforms and joined the Army ROTC program in 1969 before being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps as a Distinguished Military Graduate from the University of Florida in 1971. After completing a master's degree in medical entomology, he worked as a Florida State Extension Entomologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Florida before entering active duty in 1972 with the 1st Medical Group at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During this time, Driggers served first as the Executive Officer of the 485th Preventive Medicine Unit, and shortly thereafter took command of this unit.
It seems the young officer was destined to wear many hats over the next five decades. In fact, it's almost a case of "you name it, and he's done it." Driggers' assignments have ranged from Vector Control Officer at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., to Director of Defense Pest Management at the Pentagon. Driggers and his military family traveled quite a bit during his various tours, from Texas to California to Hawaii, from Georgia to the Pentagon to Fort Detrick, where he concluded his military service as commander of the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research.
And right here at Fort Detrick is where Driggers will wrap up a lifetime of rather fond memories from both his military and civilian careers serving his country.
Although the colonel retired from military service in 2002, his love of the Armed Forces and his country is displayed often in his demeanor. In fact, recalling his keynote speech from the Memorial Day 2002 rededication ceremony for the World War II monument at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Md., Driggers stressed the importance of supporting the U.S. military and remembering those who have given their lives for America's liberty.
"I'm a Soldier, and I'm really proud of it," said Driggers. "Freedom is not free. It has been paid for. These servicemen paid dearly for it with their blood and their sacrifices. This can never be forgotten. Take with you the memories forever embedded in your hearts. Carry them with you and do not ever forget them. They will never be forgotten as long as America exists."
As he explained, this is one of the reasons the retired colonel chose to remain in close contact with his military kindred, and began work as a contractor in support of the Office of the Principal Assistant for Research and Technology at the USAMRMC.
"After my retirement from the Army, I was looking for the best opportunity to apply my skills to be of maximum assistance to both the Soldier and the public," said Driggers.
"I feel fortunate to have worked with the wonderful people here at Fort Detrick, as they are clearly top-notch professionals," he said. "I'm also proud of the important Soldier-oriented programs that I've seen here during my two active duty tours and over the past decade while I've served as a defense support contractor."
Early on, Driggers set out to accomplish his goal of becoming a leader of public health and preventive medicine programs in either a military or government capacity, and he has done both. He said he has enjoyed his time working in this field, and he feels very fortunate to have realized some outstanding accomplishments along the way. Ranked highly among these is his contribution to drafting the language for exemptions to use certain pesticides to control public health disease vectors. This language was incorporated into the internationally negotiated Stockholm Convention of 2001 that banned the manufacture and use of Persistent Organic Pollutants more than a decade ago.
Along with this, however, he is proud of the awards and medals he has received during his active duty service as well. Among these are the Department of Defense Humanitarian Service Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Order of Military Medical Merit, Legion of Merit, and Defense Superior Service Medal, presented to Driggers by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security during his assignment to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Driggers has been given many awards -- many more than those listed above -- and he has accomplished a great deal over the past 45 years, but you would never know it unless you did the research. You see, when it comes down to it, Don Driggers is a rather reserved gentleman. It appears he didn't have to shout often to get things done -- he just got them done.
Perhaps one would say he led by example, not by excitement.
In fact, despite the numerous awards he's received for his service, Driggers was no more humbled than when he was asked by the American Legion to present the keynote speech for the World War II Memorial rededication ceremony at Mount Olivet Cemetery in 2002. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that 9/11 was so fresh in the minds of Americans; maybe it was because Driggers knew Francis Scott Key's resting place was within this same cemetery.
Or maybe -- just maybe -- it is because a Soldier is a Soldier is a Soldier.
He's served his country well, and now it's time for a well-deserved extended vacation, so to speak. Driggers is looking forward to watching more sporting events, especially those involving his beloved Florida Gators, practicing his photography, and spending much more time with family, and his four grandchildren in particular. As they say, behind every good Soldier is a wonderful military family, and this holds true for him as well.
"I am particularly proud of the support that my family has given me throughout my 40-plus years of active duty and contractor service," said Driggers. "I could not be more proud of Libi, my wife of over 43 years, our daughter Karen, and our son David, and of all their successes and achievements."
"As I move into retirement, I want to spend much of my time catching up on things and on relationships that I've unfortunately neglected. I also have a backlog of several thousand photographs that I've taken over the years -- many of our family -- which I need to edit, organize and preserve," he said.
Well, now he'll have the time to do these things, and perhaps a whole lot more. Regardless, one can be sure that retired U.S. Army Colonel Donald P. Driggers, whether in active service or in retirement, will always have the best interests of his friends, family, and the U.S. military at heart.
"I'm pleased with what I've accomplished and experienced throughout my life and career, and hopefully I have provided good and faithful service to the DoD and our nation," he said. "I feel that I have been very lucky to have been at the right place at the right time."
Well, perhaps the luck was ours.