Class VII Biographies 
Inducted in 2015 

Sergeant Lawnie Coffman

1922 - 2008


Lawnie Coffman was inducted into the Army on January 16, 1943.  He was assigned to the 35th Infantry Division.  He was sent with Company L, 137th Infantry to the West Virginia Mountain Maneuvers, arriving at the mountain camp at Seneca Rock on February 16, 1944. Sergeant Coffman landed with Co L, 137th Infantry, first in England in January of 1944, and then on Omaha Beach on July 6, 1944.  On November 18, 1944, he was shot with a German 88 causing life threatening injuries and was later discharged from the Army on August 20, 1945. Sergeant Coffman wrote about his World War II experiences in 35th Infantry Division in an extensive autobiography entitled My Leg of the Race.

Master Sergeant Bernard Deghand

1964 - 2006


Master Sergeant Bernard L. Deghand started his Army career in 1982 as Cannon Crewmember (13B) and later transferred from the Army Reserves to the Kansas Army National Guard in 1986.  Ten years later, he became an Infantry Rifleman (11B). Then served with 35th Infantry Division Headquarters as a Readiness NCO and Operations NCO. Master Sergeant Deghand deployed three times with 35th Infantry Division: Bosnia (2002), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Afghanistan (2006). During Operation Enduring Freedom, he served as a trainer for the Afghan Army, teaching mechanized infantry tactics using armored personnel carriers.  He died in a firefight on Sept. 15, 2006, in Spira, Afghanistan.

Private First Class Murray Leff

1922 -


Murray Leff served with E Company, 137th Infantry from September 1944 until the end of World War II. Private First Class Leff documented his unit’s and the 35th Divisions battles from the Gremercy Forest through the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge to the final push into Germany. Private First Class Leff provided a viewpoint of Private in a foxhole with his photos and memories which were later documented in his book. Lens of an Infantryman.  His words and images from of the 35th Division in World War II stand out in the history and lineage of the 35th Division. Today, Murray Leff and his wife live in New York and he continues to share his photos and stories about his experiences in World War II.

Captain Samuel G. O’Brien

1920 - 2010


Samuel G. O’Brien received a commission as Second Lieutenant at Fort Benning, Georgia in the summer of 1943. He was assigned to several positions of the 320th Infantry Regiment during World War II. As a member of the 320th Infantry Regiment, he landed in Normandy on July 6, 1944. He remained in combat with the 320th Infantry until VE Day.  Later, his primary assignment was as Regimental Liaison Officer between the 320th Infantry Regiment and the 35th Infantry Division Headquarters. He participated in the battles of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe.  He was a decorated officer and later was awarded the French Legion of Honor. 

Private First Class Halbert Edward Olson

1912 - 1945


Private First Class Halbert Olson was 31 years old when he enlisted in January 1944. After training in the United States, he was sent to Belgium as a replacement in the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. On February 26, 1945, PFC Olson was in a room with two other Soldiers, preparing to clear out the enemy.  A hand grenade became entangled in his clothing. He could not get rid of it. He then ran to the other side of the room and fell upon the deadly explosive. He gave his life to save those of his comrades. PFC Olson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s highest award for extreme gallantry after the Medal of Honor. 

Staff Sergeant Jack L. Ulmer

1921 - 2011


Staff Sergeant J.L. Ulmer was mobilized in December of 1940 as a member of Company M, 3rd Battalion, 137 Infantry, 35th Infantry Division, Kansas National Guard at Lawrence, Kansas. On July 6, 1944, he landed on Omaha Beach and began combat in the hedgerows of Normandy, first seeing action in the battle at St. Lo.  He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions on July 17, 1944. Upon observing a wrecker carrying ten men and several boxes of grenades and small arms ammunition burst into flames after it had struck a mine, Sergeant Ulmer and two others accompanying him, rushed into the flaming area and pulled injured personnel from the vehicle to safety, despite the fact that grenades were bursting at the time. He was awarded the Purple Heart for combat in World War II. In June of 2007, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.