Meet Doug Koman of the Mentor Military Signing Ceremony

The “Koman-Spreng-Zonneville” Military Signing Ceremony in May honors Mentor graduates who choose the military for a career. Hear from one of the men for whom the ceremony is named.

Doug Koman


Doug Koman, one of the three distinguished Mentor servicemen to be named in our school signing ceremony

Quinn Fuerst, Contributor

Doug Koman’s name is featured in the title of Mentor’s military signing program, so Cardinal Nation chose to do a profile on this local resident.

Mr.Koman has had a lengthy public service career. He was Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant (Armor) in the United States Army. From November of 1968 to November of 1969 he served at Ft. Benning, Georgia in the 169th Infantry as Platoon Leader. He took the Airborne Course and from November of 1969 to March of 1970 was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He served in the XVIII Airborne Corps as Aide-de-Camp to Chief of Staff.

From May of 1970 to November of 1993 he was in the Secret Service where he was a special agent and performed investigative and protective assignments. After he retired from the military he was the Chief of Police and Regional Director of Security at Cleveland Clinic. After that he was the Assistant Federal Security Director at Transportation Security Administration (Northern Ohio). Some of the honors he has attained over the years are Honor Flight Board of Directors, U.S. Secret Service State of Ohio coordinator, the retired agent association, American Legion, and Mentor Post 352 Commander.

We asked him some questions about his service and reflections on our Mentor military signing ceremony. We thank him for his service, his time, and generous responses and insight.

Cardinal Nation: What led you to military/government service?

Doug Koman: My father was a decorated pilot in WWII, flying B-25s and later B-24s in the Mediterranean Theater. I can’t say military service was in my blood, at least I didn’t realize it until later. I entered college during the Vietnam War and took Basic ROTC as an elective course. In that course I found I enjoyed what I was learning and listening to the instructors outside of class. My Sophomore year I decided to make the military my career, so it may have been in my blood all along. As an aside; my father was a high school English teacher. I entered college as a secondary education history major. I still love history.

Cardinal Nation: What was the nature of your service, and what were some of your important / enjoyable posts for you and why? 

Doug Koman: My first year in the army was about learning. I took a mandatory three month Armor Officer Basic Course. Really a quick oversight – so when you see a tank, you know its a tank; not quite but you get the picture. Your first assignment is where you learn, if you’re smart. As platoon leader (in a tank platoon) you have roughly twenty men (no women then) you were responsible for. Fortunately you also have a platoon sergeant who has a good bit more experience than you. You outrank him, but a wise 2nd Lt. will not pull rank. My Sgt. had just completed his second tour in Vietnam.  

Shortly after assuming command, he pulled me aside and said words to the effect, “Sir, you’re the boss and I’ll do as you say. But before you say it, you might want to run it by me first.” This where being smart pays off – I listened to him. Eventually I learned enough to where I earned his confidence, although I continued to look up to him.

I enjoyed my assignment to the XVIII (18th) Airborne Corps. I was First Lieutenant then. However, as an Aide-de-Camp, my work environment was not that of other lieutenants. Others had a Captain as their immediate supervisor (and rating officer). I had a Brigadier General. Those working around me were full colonels. It gave me the opportunity to look ahead twenty years and see what my life might be like.

Cardinal Nation: What were some important moments for you during your service that you can share?

Doug Koman: When you are seventy-six (years old), it affords you the benefit of recognizing the seemingly insignificant moments that play a major part in your later life. One for me happened at Ft. Benning as a 2nd Lt. We were scheduled for a training day at the small arms (pistol) range; a 10 mile hike round trip. It will be a high temperature/humidity day. The following day we had inside training. I requested the operations officer (Captain) to switch days. He refused. I pointed out the temperature etc. He responded, “Do as you’re told Lt.!” “Yes, sir,” I said. I requested medics be alerted, which he did.

The following day, training went as planned. Arriving back near the company area, a private suffered heat stroke. I and my platoon sergeant performed first aid while others sergeants notified the medics. The young man survived. The Operations Captain was relieved and I replaced him. Shortly after that, I was selected to be  an aide-de-camp.

The learning lesson from this and – I saw it during my Secret Service career – 1) Do the right thing. It may cause you problems, it may not. But you are the one who stares back at you from the mirror. 2) Be prepared – mentally and physically, think ahead. Be in command of your life, don’t waltz through it. And 3) It is the little things in life that your reputation is built on.

I guess one last thing. High school seems all encompassing and your life seems to depend on it. Grades, grades and grades. Life is more than grades. Give your 100% each day, BUT realize your 100% today maybe different than yesterday’s. I think I have had a fairly successful life and I was a “C” student in high school (not college though).   

Cardinal Nation: What did you gain from your service that helped you throughout your life and career? 

Doug Koman: Other than the values I mentioned, I think humor and an appreciation of others. There will always be someone more successful and less successful than yourself; appreciate each person. I’m competitive. For a long time striving to get ahead was “IT”. While in the Washington (DC) Field Office, I arrived at 6:30 a.m. (75-minute commute) and left after 7 p.m. I was burning myself out and was I getting ahead. Accomplishing more? No.

I continue to work at taking life with humor. The ability to laugh at myself and some of the dumb things that I say or do. Be balanced; whatever it is, schoolwork, athletics, home, church, whatever.

Cardinal Nation: What is the importance of the military signing ceremony for you, and what advice or words can you share with the students? 

Doug Koman: As a veteran I want to know that there are those in the following generations that are willing to wear the uniform. They are willing to step up. The military is not for everyone. Less than 1% of those eligible, serve. I spent 32 years of my life serving this country; three times I took an oath to defend her Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I am unapologetic in regards to my love of country. Service, the act of helping; doing or recognizing / fulfilling a need beyond yourself. Wearing the uniform is an honor. Its lineage stretches back to April 19, 1775. 

Some see it this way and most others do not. Statistics bear this out. 

Look beyond yourself and serve where you are called; serve others. Over the last two years we saw this level of service, dedication, and sacrifice from nurses and doctors.

I will be at MHS’ next  “Koman-Spreng-Zonneville Military Signing Day.” I will shake the hand of each female and male student stepping up and will know our country is in good hands.