Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Roberts was recently awarded the Florida Cross, the highest award given by the Florida National Guard, and the US Army Legion of Merit, which is the second highest non-combat award given by the US Army. The criteria for both of the awards require exceptional and meritorious conduct by a key individual over a significant amount of time above and beyond the performance of expected duties.
In civilian life, Roberts is serving his fifth term as Public Defender for the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Hamilton County, as well as Chair of the Justice Administrative Commission in Tallahassee.
Roberts received the awards during his retirement ceremony at Florida National Guard Headquarters in St. Augustine from Major General Douglas Burnett, the Adjutant General of the State of Florida.
“Colonel Roberts had excelled in all military assignments and was the ‘consummate example of a Citizen/Soldier,’” said Burnett. “We are proud that he has been a fellow soldier, colleague and most importantly, a friend, to the Florida National Guard.”
Roberts is the only Judge Advocate General (JAG) who has served as either Staff Judge Advocate or Deputy Staff Judge Advocate at all five Florida National Guard Major Commands. He has tried more cases than any other JAG officer in the Florida National Guard and has assisted the Florida Air National Guard, serving as both a prosecutor and defense counsel.
Burnett called him “invaluable” during times of mobilization during numerous hurricanes and wildfires. “The legal services provided, such as wills, trusts and re-employment rights to Commanders, Guard members and their families sent the troops off with peace of mind concerning their legal issues,” Burnett said.
The Florida Bar previously recognized Roberts as the “Outstanding Military Lawyer” - the first Florida National Guard JAG to receive this award. He also received the 1999 “Outstanding Career Senior Guard Attorney” award in Washington, DC, from the National Judge Advocate’s Association.
Roberts began his military career in 1968 at age 18 by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, where he reached the rank of corporal. He served one year of overseas duty with the 3rd Marine Division and was awarded an Honorable Discharge in 1974.
In 1977 he enlisted in the Florida National Guard at the 153rd Engineer Company in Lake City. He was selected for Officer Candidate School at the Florida National Guard Military Academy and was Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1978. He then completed the US Army Officer Infantry Course in Ft. Benning, Ga. and served as a Platoon Leader with the 631st Maintenance Co. in Starke.
Upon graduating from the University of Florida School of Law, Roberts made a Branch transfer from Infantry to JAG to Corps and was one of the first four National Guardsman in the country to attend the Active Component JAG Course at the University of Virginia. He is also a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.
Roberts is active in numerous civic and professional organizations including service as President of numerous organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Third Judicial Circuit Bar Association, the Lake City Rotary Club and CARC, as well as serving as Commanding General of the Blue/Grey Army for three tours.
Roberts’ wife of 33 years, Tina Carmichael Roberts, is a Suwannee County native. They have three children - Dennille Folsom, Daniel Roberts and Dianna Roberts.