Serving to make a difference

Published Dec. 5, 2016
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District Volunteer Excellence coin

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District Volunteer Excellence coin

Ed Herman receives his Volunteer Excellence coin from Wilson Lake staff. Left to right, Nolan Fisher, Ed Herman, Zach Hlad.

Ed Herman receives his Volunteer Excellence coin from Wilson Lake staff. Left to right, Nolan Fisher, Ed Herman, Zach Hlad.

There are some people we look up to, strive to be like and aspire to set goals that would impress them.

Over the past fourteen years, one individual has stood out to the staff at several Kansas lake projects within the Kansas City District. This quiet, thoughtful, intellectual individual has spent numerous hours dedicating his service for the greater good and has made a lasting impression on our team.

As the stewards of nearly 12 million acres of land and water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offers many volunteer opportunities to care for recreation facilities and natural resources. Ed Herman is one of our aspiring volunteers.

Herman, a Saline River Valley native and Korean War veteran, began his volunteer services for the Kansas City District at Perry Lake. After spending 10 years there, he moved on to spend one summer at Milford Lake and his past three years of service have been dedicated to Wilson Lake.

Wilson Lake in Sylvan Grove, Kan., was planned, designed and constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction of the dam began in 1961 and the multipurpose project was completed in 1964, serving primarily for flood and silt control, recreation and fish and wildlife management. The area also offers several beautiful sandstone bluffs and features.

Often referred to as the “clearest lake in Kansas” due to its super clear waters, the surrounding native prairies provide for a natural filter effect for water runoff before reaching the lake. The lake boasts special characters such as sandstone caves and other geologic structures which attract many visitors to this unique location. As a native to the area, Herman still recalls the old geography and topography from over 50 years ago prior to the dam construction.

“He is very knowledgeable about life and the land,” informs Nolan Fisher, Wilson Lake natural resource manager. “Ed often accompanies us to help set buoys in the lake. When using sonar equipment to navigate our path, Ed explains of old roadbeds below the water surface he traveled as a child. He recalls the town layout, neighbors and hot spots teenagers would frequent. The amount of knowledge he shares with us is incredible.”

While his primary volunteer responsibilities at Wilson Lake are electrical and plumbing repair, some tasks are geared toward natural resource management such as mowing, spraying noxious weeds and planting food plots. It does not matter what task he takes on, he always finds a way to provide institutional knowledge to the staff.

“He works side-by-side with our crew. He’s the quiet guy in the back listening to every idea and method we discuss to complete a project. After patiently listening to the team, he chimes in with knowledge always on point providing an even better method to get the job done,” says Fisher. “Ed always finds a way to put a positive spin on everything and at the same time he helps our staff bond.”

When Herman is done with his volunteer shift, he does not immediately head home. Instead, as an avid runner, he enjoys recreating at the location he works so hard to preserve.  Herman is known for frequently grabbing a headband and running shoes to jog laps on the backslope of the dam.

“His energy, attitude and dedication never cease to amaze me. It has truly been a pleasure to know and work with Ed. I think he makes us all want to be better people. He serves not only as a volunteer, but a role model and inspiring Soldier for all of us to work with,” says Fisher. 

During the summers of 2013, 2014 and 2016, Herman donated over 2,100 service hours to Wilson Lake. For his amazing efforts, Herman has been recognized for his service in the form of a “Volunteer Excellence” coin by the Wilson Lake staff. Throughout his decade of selfless service to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he has donated over 10,000 hours, saving the federal government more than $235,000.

RJ Harms, operations manager at Perry Lake, worked six summers with Herman at Milford and Perry lakes. He recalls the dedicated service and his tremendous “can do” attitude.

“Ed was very helpful and always willing to assist with any project at any time. He possesses the best work ethic of anyone I have ever met,” says Harms. “He has always provided more help and accomplished more than was ever required of him in the volunteer service for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas City District. I am glad to see he is recognized for his service.”

As seasons and volunteers come and go the lakes continue to look for assistance. Individuals do not have to be in the local vicinity to apply as some locations offer a campsite to volunteers during the service season. 

Zach Hlad, Kansas City District’s volunteer program coordinator for Wilson Lake, informs potential volunteers, “We do require a 15 hour work week minimum during the recreation season. We have a multitude of tasks and try to accommodate our volunteers with those they may enjoy such as mowing, food plot assistance, painting, assisting the public and more.”

Volunteers do not go unrecognized by those they provide a service to. Whether they are rewarded for thousands of dedication hours or a few field hours, they are all appreciated by the Corps staff. 

“I enjoy meeting the wide-range of people who are selfless to work for no pay. They are always enthusiastic individuals willing to work hard and learn,” says Hlad. “We truly appreciate their time and dedication to help make the lake a better place for everyone to enjoy. If you want to volunteer, call any of our lake projects for information.”

Volunteer opportunities are online at or by calling 1-800-VOL-TEER (1-800-865-8337). When calling, be prepared to provide information about interests, talents, dates available and interested locations. Individuals may also contact specific lake projects to inquire about local opportunities.