WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Governor Laura Kelly has proclaimed Thursday, March 24, as “Kansas Armed Forces Appreciation Day.”

For one Wichita man, his leap of faith turned into a 25-year career in the armed forces.

Herman Hicks initially joined the ROTC to pay for school. After officer training school, Hicks became a second lieutenant. His initial plan was to stay in the military for four to five years, expecting to retire as a captain or a major.

“In fact, when I came in the Air Force, they would tell you that as a Black officer, I probably wouldn’t get to be any more than a major,” Hicks said.

The color of Hicks’ skin did not stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a colonel in the air force.

“My job was to make a four-star general look good,” said Hicks.

As a major, Hicks was appointed as the Deputy of Chief of Protocol for the United States Air Force Europe. His job was to set up meetings between presidents, generals and foreign dignitaries at Rammstein Air Force Base.

“We provide the protocol. In other words, we made sure that all of the necessary things that were required for that visit was taken care of,” Hicks said.

Hicks says working a visit with Colin Powell encouraged him to continue his own dream.

“He was one of few four-star Black generals that I had met, and to work his visit as a Black Deputy Chief of Protocol to work his visit was an honor,” said Hicks. “It gave me the belief that I could do well in the Air Force also.”

After Germany, Hicks went on to become the deputy support group commander of Eglin Air Base in Florida, the largest Air Force base in America.

But according to a senior officer, “You’re eligible for colonel, full colonel, but I’m gonna tell you, you will never make colonel,” said Hicks.

Hicks says, through the grace of God, 21 years after he joined the military he made colonel.

“And when the colonel list came out, my name was on the list, and that same colonel had to congratulate me for making full colonel,” Hicks said.

Hicks retired as a colonel after 25 years in the Air Force. His final position was overseeing seven squadrons at McConnell Air Force Base.

“I did not take it for granted that I would walk in a building, and they have to call the building to attention, I walk in a room, and they had to call the room to attention because the colonel had walked in, and it was because of the grace of God,” said Hicks.

Hicks has since become the senior pastor of a Wichita church. Now, he spends much of his time as a member of the Wichita God Squadron, a group of local pastors who work to build lasting partnerships between the community and law enforcement.

If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.