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Travis Airmen, couple, graduate college with honors

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Kevin and Debbie Edwards always had a dream of higher education, and that dream finally came true when they walked the stage at Brandman University in Sacramento with Bachelors of Art degrees in business administration June 3.

Kevin retired from the Air Force as a technical sergeant from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron as the NCO in charge of special handling, while his wife, Debbie, retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant with the 45th APS as the Air Transportation Superintendent.

In October 2014, the couple decided it was time to go back to school.

“I’ve always wanted to go back to school,” said Debbie. “I’ve talked about it for years, finally it just fell in our lap. I had the opportunity, so we finally went back.”

The pair worked together over the past three years to complete their degrees without taking a semester off.

 “We went straight through, we didn’t take any time off for summer or vacation,” said Debbie. “We were in Hawaii and still worked on our papers. We like to go (camping) so there was never a time we weren’t doing assignments. We would get up early and write papers so we could hang out with people. 

The couple worked together, even taking the same classes, to get their degrees finished.

“It’s been hard with me having a full time job,” said Kevin, who now serves as the 60th APS passenger services flight operations manager. “But she helped me along to get everything done.”

For Kevin, getting his degree means moving forward in his civilian career and motivating others to do so as well.

“The military always pushes education,” said Kevin. “I thought that I’m still an Airman, I’m still in the military, still work for the military, I just wear a different uniform. I want to be a mentor for my Airmen. Hopefully, now they can see that I’ve done something good, got a degree and they can attain it as well.”

At the age of 54, Debbie said it’s never too late to get your degree.

“My age is something I celebrate,” said Debbie. “Going back to school at this age makes it even more special because people say ‘oh I’ve lived my life’ and I say you never quit, you never stop. We were just really excited about going back to school.”

The couple, who celebrates their 20th anniversary this year, met when they were both serving in Saudi Arabia in 1997.

“I took (temporary duties) and every assignment as an opportunity,” said Debbie. “We talk to kids now and we tell them you’re at Travis, you’re in the most beautiful state there is, go out and do things and don’t sit in your dorm rooms. Make the best of it.”

After returning, they got married and later added two girls to their family, but held off on their degrees until now.

“It’s like living a dream,” said Debbie. “I’m proud because not only did we do it, but we graduated with honors. That’s not something we were expecting.”

Kevin attributes success to his wife and his military service.

“I wasn’t really good in school when I grew up,” said Kevin. “I think that’s one thing I need to be thankful about, after 21 years in the military they gave me the tools to do some of that education and (I’m) thankful for my squadron who supported me. We spent lots of long hours studying and lost sleep, but we are proof that it can be done. Three years of our lives tied up in this program. It’s well worth it.”

While the pair may have been some of the oldest students in the class, that reality didn’t hinder them and they even found time to help their classmates.

“We’ve had study groups at our house and I cook for them,” said Debbie. “They know when they come to the house, they’re going to get a meal.”

This is just the beginning for the Edwards. They are both looking at working on their masters degrees in business administration while Debbie also has the additional goal of becoming a teacher.

“It’s never too late,” said Debbie. “And there’s so many programs out there for veterans and educational benefits.”

Kevin hopes his degree will further his career before retiring from civil service.

“All I can say is go for your degree,” said Kevin. “I like to be a mentor, not just to the Airmen but to society. There’s an opportunity for everybody, it’s just whether you pursue it or not. Do it while you can."