By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Dr. Tom Mullikin, a professor at the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, received a surprise recognition – coinciding with his being named military VETERAN OF THE WEEK by the S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs (SCDVA) – Tuesday, April 5.
Monday, Mullikin was named Veteran of the Week. Tuesday, at the beginning of his Eco Tourism class in the Close-Hipp building on the USC campus, Mullikin was presented a Veteran of the Week cake and congratulations from fellow faculty, representatives from the SCDVA, and members of the S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame, of which he is a member.
“I am enormously grateful to both Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley and his team at the SCDVA as well as my fellow veterans who made this happen,” said Mullikin. “I suspected something was going to happen this morning, but I wasn’t entirely sure what or why. My students enjoyed the break with cake too.”
Attending the event were Dean David A. Cárdenas, PhD; fellow faculty; SCDVA’s Midlands Regional Integration Officer Dan Wrightsman, SCDVA’s Accreditation Coordinator Anthony Maikkula; Black Belt Hall of Famers Col. (Ret.) Steve Vitali, USMC; Mike Genova; and Bruce Brutschy. Also in attendance were Mullikin’s students, several friends, and a few of his staff from the Camden-based Mullikin Law Firm.
“The fact that the S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs is recognizing distinguished South Carolina military veterans like Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin through their Veteran of the Week program speaks to the leadership of Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley,” said Col. Vitali, a retired Marine officer and veteran combat commander of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The fact that Tom was honored here in his class on the USC campus speaks to the love and respect his friends, colleagues, and others hold for him.”
By tradition and usually in celebration of armed forces birthdays, Mullikin made the initial cut of the cake with a U.S. Army officer’s sword [pictured]. Cake was then served: Students first, then faculty and guests.
Mullikin served in the Army Reserve as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps officer beginning in 1998. Following his completion of the JAG Officer Basic Course, he was assigned to the 12th Legal Support Organization where he served as a prosecutor/trial counsel. He then served as International Legal Officer for the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne). A graduate of the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School at Fort Benning, Georgia, certified as a U.S. Army Master Fitness Trainer, and holding a black belt in traditional karate, Mullikin served as an Army self-defense instructor. Mullikin was honorably discharged at the rank of captain in December 2006.
Mullikin later served in a post-Army civilian capacity as special assistant to the Chief Prosecutor, Military Commissions, U.S. Department of Defense. And he was commissioned into the S.C. Military Department (SCMD) where he initially served as both JAG officer and Counterterrorism Task Force officer (later Counterterrorism Advisory Team officer) for the SCMD’s Joint Services Department (JSD). Recognized for his “extraordinary leadership,” Mullikin transferred from JSD to the S.C. State Guard (SCSG), quickly becoming deputy commander and chief of staff, and in 2014, commander (commanding general) of that historic military organization before retiring as major general in 2018.
The S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs began its VETERAN OF THE WEEK program, honoring military veterans from across South Carolina, in July 2020.