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Lander Nursing Graduates Greeted by Top Female Officer in S.C. National Guard

Capt. Thomas Funderburk, Brigadier General Darlene M. Goff, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Scruggs
Lander University fall 2011 graduates Capt. Thomas Funderburk, left, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Scruggs, right, pose with Brigadier General Darlene M. Goff, of the South Carolina Army National Guard (SCANG), who is also a Lander graduate.

For Capt. Thomas Funderburk and Staff Sgt. Matthew Scruggs Dec. 17 had a special meaning in their lives. It was the day they received their nursing degrees from Lander University's William Preston Turner Department of Nursing and met face-to-face with Brigadier General Darlene M. Goff, of the South Carolina Army National Guard (SCANG), who is also a Lander graduate.

Goff, Funderburk and Scruggs spent a few minutes chatting before the commencement ceremonies and she presented them coins commemorating her 2010 promotion to brigadier general. She is the first woman to be promoted to general officer status in SCANG history and, as Assistant Adjutant General and Vice Chief of the Joint Staff, she is also the highest-ranking woman in the organization.

Goff, who graduated from Lander in 1978, delivered the fall commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Funderburk, 50, a native of Greenwood who now lives in Irmo, began his military career in 1979 as a U.S. Air Force security specialist. For nine years, he was a helicopter crew chief with the 151st Attack Aviation Battalion and served with that unit in Kosovo in 2003.

He was commissioned in the U.S. Army Reserve in 2006. He is assigned to the 5010th Army Hospital at Ft. Gordon, in Augusta, Ga., and serves as maintenance officer for the Homeland Defense team.

At Lander, Funderburk completed the university's RN to BSN option, which provides registered nurses the opportunity to continue their education and receive a four-year nursing degree.

He is on military leave of absence from Palmetto Health Heart Hospital and works part time in the emergency department at Providence Hospital Northeast. Both hospitals are in Columbia. He and his wife, Sharon, who recently celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary, have two children and two grandchildren.

Funderburk has 24 years of military service and he plans to stay in the Army until age 60 and beyond if he is eligible.

Like Funderburk, Scruggs completed Lander's RN to BSN option and, early next year, he will enroll in an online program to obtain a master's degree in nursing.

Scruggs is a veteran of two tours in Iraq. When he returned home from the second deployment in 2010, he was experiencing symptoms that military doctors would diagnose as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They prescribed medication and regular consultations with Veterans Administration health professionals to help keep his symptoms under control. Scruggs is writing about his PTSD experiences in a book that he hopes to publish late next year.

The 35-year-old Hodges native and wife, Ashley, have been married for four years. He is assigned to the SCANG's 1055th Transportation Company in Laurens and comes from a military family. His father, SFC Frederick Scruggs, retired from the South Carolina Army National Guard in December with nearly 40 years of military service.

In 2005, Scruggs and his father were members of the same unit and deployed to Iraq together. His sister, Rebecca, and brother-in-law, Michael Porter, are also national guardsmen and his brother, Daniel, is on active duty with the Army in Florida.

Scruggs has a part-time nursing position at Greenwood Regional Rehabilitation Hospital and the Abbeville Nursing Home.