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Memorial Day 2012

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Memorial Day

Freedom Celebration The ONLY Parade and ceremony in North Carolina on Memorial Day Monday, May 28, Thomasville Schedule of events: 9 a.m.

Memorial Day

2012

This section is a tribute to the men and women who valiantly served out country to protect the freedoms we enjoy and the American way of life. Editorial Eliot Duke Daniel Kennedy Advertising John McClure, Advertising Director

Vietnam Veterans Wall ceremony on Interstate 85.

9:30 a.m.

Downtown, visit parade entries.

10 a.m.

Bandstand opens and welcome to Gold Star families.

11:20 a.m. Parade starts.

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1:45 p.m.

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Ceremony and parachute jump at Cushwa Stadium. Speaker, Medal of Honor Recipient Harvey Barnum at Memorial Park.

Special guests will include Medal of Honor Recipient Rudy Hernandez, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, George Patton Waters (grandson of Gen. George Patton), military leaders and vehicles, Senators, Congressmen, local and state politicians and other dignitaries.

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memorial day 2012

Quinones answers call to duty in wake of 9/11

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Eliot Duke | Staff Writer | 888-3578 • duke@tvilletimes.com

moke still bellowed from Ground Zero when New York native Mike Quinones joined the Army on Sept. 13, 2001. After losing friends in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center just two days prior, the soon-tobe third generation soldier knew the time to serve his country had finally come. Seeing death and destruction magnified in his backyard, knowing some of the lives lost personally, would be all the motivation the 28-year-old former sports bar owner needed. The events of Sept. 11 didn’t play out on a television set or across the country for a guy who grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island. “I knew six people who died in the Trade Center,” said Quinones, who teaches U.S. and World History at Thomasville High School. “Three of them I knew really well and the other three were acquaintances. Two were firemen, four were just ordinary people working in the buildings. Like most New Yorkers, even more acutely than most Americans, you were affected on a lot deeper level because most of the victims were New Yorkers. I just remember it being a pretty surreal experience.” Among the victims was Joseph Patrick Henry, a man Quinones played amateur baseball with. Another was a substitute teacher at Qudinones’ old school growing up. Despite the advice of friends to consider his own two small children, the son of a veteran whose father fought in World War II, decided it was time to do his part. “Maybe I was a bit misdirected when I joined,” Quinones said. “In my family it’s been about the service. I had postponed it so maybe it was the right time to do something about it. As far as why I joined, 9/11 really affected me in terms of the people I knew who died. I had to do something and contribute something, just as other Americans had. ” In December 2002, Quinones‘ unit deployed to Afghanistan, where he would spend the next

220 days of his life in the theater of war as an infantry soldier. His unit was only the third rotation to arrive in Afghanistan, a country he describes as Biblical in nature, as if time froze in a state of rocky animation. Deciphering friend from foe within an impoverished culture proved to be a skill some mastered while others didn’t. “Many of the people living over there, if you’ve ever read the Old

Mike Quinones U.S. Army

Testament, were basically living in Stone Age Times” said Quinones. “Folks over there didn’t have uniforms so the lack of clarity as to who the enemy was only added to the fog of war. That only intensifies the anxiety soldiers have. You hear the criticisms when things happen in terms of mistakes, I never saw it but you hear about it, is very realistic. You want to accomplish your mission but you also want to come back alive and in one piece. Some folks do what they have to do. Our job was definitely to meet the enemy. We did what we had to do and we came back.” Quinones admits questioning his decision to join, as times often were difficult. Some guys never made it back while others returned in less than one piece. Quinones was one of the lucky ones. By July 2003, Quinones was home, his time as a soldier fulfilled. His unit would return to Afghanistan and Iraq, and the losses only mounted with each deployment. Losses like Sgt. Ronald Grider, a man Quinones describes as a real-life G.I.

Joe. As a member of the Army Rangers and the Delta Force, Grider spent nine different tours over an 11-year period in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “If somebody was going to create a template for the perfect soldier in terming of ability and attitude, it would be him,’ Quinones said. “This guy was amazing.” Grider died in 2010 in Afghanistan from machine gun fire. Quinones’ former squad leader, Sgt. Casey Grochowiak, from California, suffered a back injury and could’ve avoided another deployment, but didn’t, not wanting to leave his troops. An IED eventually claimed his life. “He was like a brother to me,” said Quinones “We did amazing things together. It was terrible Sometimes it makes me wonder, we’re approaching 11 years now, what the hell are we still doing over there? There is a lot of great sadness for me because instead of just names on the walls at these memorials, I know these guys. I’ve shared blood, sweat and tears with those guys. It’s tough.” Just recently, while at Kernersville Lake Park, Quinones spotted a fellow vet and struck up a conversation, which naturally centered around their military service. It wasn’t long before painful memories nearly drew the Korean War vet to tears, reminding Quinones that war stays with a person long after their time in the service is over. “It just goes to show that even after 60 years, to him it’s still fresh,” Quinones said. “He didn’t get that from the battlefield, it came from friends who went and didn’t come back.” Quinones is married and now has four children. He teaches students at THS about the history of his country and the world he lives in. A world he sees much differently than the 28-year-old sports bar owner who only thought of serving his country before the fateful events in his hometown.

Past • Present • Future

We salute the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces, those who serve today, and the future generations who will carry on the honorable duties of protecting and preserving America's freedom. Their dedication, patriotism, sacrifice and courage will always be remembered.

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eteran resolute in journey from child to leader Daniel Kennedy | Staff Writer | 888-3575 • kennedy@tvilletimes.com

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hen he was 6 years old, Army Col. Robert Merkel had no doubt as to whom he would become. Following in his father’s footsteps, Merkel joined the armed forces and served his country through five combat tours. His travels led him to Somalia, Desert Storm and Iraq for three tours of duty. “The memories I have are of working with great people,� Merkel said. “We have the greatest military in the world because we have young soldiers stepping up as leaders.� Merkel was one who stood up to be such a leader, a man driven by a sense of duty and honor instilled by his father. These qualities are the substance of valor, he said, and this generation of young people would do well to learn it and pass it along.

Col. Robert Merkel U.S. Army

“For the young men and women in uniform, it’s about a life of service,� Merkel said. “The greater goal is to put people above yourself, putting your life as a second priority. Our young folks come from every walk of life and come together as a team.� The team with which he participated is known as the Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. He

invested eight years of his life to nullify threats by the disposal of bombs and other explosive devices. Merkel worked through Desert Storm in this capacity and returned for a final stint in the Middle East. One of the greatest surprises of his career came with how well Baghdad progressed in his final 15-month tour of duty. Since his retirement in August 2009, he has joined the staff at Thomasville High School as an instructor in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Camp program. Part of his task includes teaching students the logistics of what he learned in the Army, but he also teaches the students to soak up all the information they can about what it means to serve in the armed forces. Merkel believes that one way parents can bridge a culture

gap, that came into existence within the last several years, is to speak of their experiences. If the younger generation will listen to the stories from veterans and those who lived through wartime, he says, more will volunteer for service. “For those who want to serve in the military, the word there is ‘serve,’� Merkel said. “Teens have to find their place, find their path and go with it. Today, people look at Memorial Day as a day off from work, but I wish people would just take a couple minutes and reflect. Don’t just make it May 28. “Memorial Day is incredibly important to me to remember all the friends I lost. For others, they must set aside a time to remember. I do it everyday.�

  

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Honoring Our Heroes

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Staff Sgt. Donald G Baity

U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, WWII Because of the life you’ve lived and the examples you’ve set, you will always be our HERO! With all our love & admiration, Vivian, Nicholas, Maria, Daniel & Andrew

Cpl. Clifford L. Michael

10/67-10/68 Whisky Battery., 1st Battlion 12th Marine Regiment 3rd Marine Division We are so proud that you are part of our family. Thank you for all you’ve done.

Larry Small & wife Tokhanh

memorial day 2012

Billy Lee Martin

1941-1945 Sgt. in United States Marine Corps Joined in early 1941; survived beach landings under heavy fire on Tulagi, Guadalcanal, Bouganville, and many others in Solomon Islands; never told me a lie.

John Wesley Reeder

1943-1946 Pvt., US Army, Co. E, 38th Regt., 2nd Infantry Division Son of Jason and Eula Scott Reeder of Moore County, NC; fought in France, Belgium, Battle of the Bulge; no finer man ever.

Lloyd Cody Martin

US Marines 9th Division Vietnam Larry, you are our HERO! Thank you for serving the Lord and our country. We love you! Your Join Heirs’ Sunday School Class at Green Street Baptist Church. We love you Larry & Tokhanh!

Infantry, US Army, 23, June 1944 to 21 May 1946 82nd Airborne, 1949-1954 In Battles for Leyte, Nasugbu, Manila, Aparri, and Okinawa; made 39 jumps in 82nd; patient enough to teach me roller skating and later stick-shift driving

In loving memory of

Richard Carroll Berrier

Perry Gene McDowell

Korean War Army Veteran. Thanks for serving our country! Thanks for loving us! Ruth Ellen, kids, grandkids and great grandkids!

Spec. in the N.C. National Guard Dad, I am very proud of you! I love you very much! Love your Daughter, Terese Robin

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Mock serves a new generation Eliot Duke | Staff Writer | 888-3578 • duke@tvilletimes.com

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on Mock never may have seen the world if he had reluctantly decided to join so many of friends in Thomasville’s furniture mills. After graduating from Thomasville High School in 1973, that’s exactly what he tried to do. It didn’t take long for Mock to realize a factory life simply wasn’t in the cards for him. “That definitely was not going to be me,” Mock, 57, said. “I know I didn’t want to work that type of life so it forced me to open up to the world.” An obvious choice for Mock was the Army, a decision that would almost immediately take the young man across the country to beaches of sunny California. Mock worked as a supply clerk for three years in Monterey, Calif., where, to his surprise, his southern upbringing made him a hit with those living on the West Coast. “Coming from factory Thomasville to Monterey, Calif., you’re talking the beach, girls, a variety of different types of people,” said Mock. “Never did I think my southern accent would be so cool. People always asked me to say something again. It was a great experience, meeting so many diverse people.” Mock left the Army in 1977 and played college basketball for a few years before returning home to Thomasville. The same furniture jobs Mock tried to avoid remained, but so did his refusal of that lifestyle. Choosing the military over furniture once again, Mock, after waiting for the Army’s decision, elected to join the Navy. Over the next 17 years, Mock would see the world, both from land and sea. He circled South America, crossing the equator while stopping in countries like Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. It was these experiences that made him realize why he was serving and what his purpose in the military had become. “I’m free,” Mock said. “It’s not like that in other countries. I remember being in Colombia and see men walking down the street in plain clothes carrying machine

Don Mock U.S. Army

guns. I didn’t know what to do. You see it some places now where it’s even worse. To compare the United States with South America, a lot of people can’t do that.” Considering himself a people person, Mock fit right in with military life. He went to an all black school as a child, forcing him to learn at an early age the intricacies of racial diversity. In the military, Mock saw that the difference in white and black became very small when it came to brushing one’s teeth within arms reach of someone of another color. “What I loved about the military was everybody got the same haircut and the same uniform,” said Mock. “We all had to live under the same roof and no one guy was different than the next. You learn about other people, how they live. That was great for me because I’m a people person. It was like going overseas.” Mock spent 17 years in the Navy, and nearly saw war first hand during the Gulf War. While on the way to Iraq, Mock’s ship, the USS Santa Cinto, was recalled as another guided missile cruiser that was closer to the region went instead. After serving his 20 years, Mock got into education, where he now works at his alma mater with Communities In Schools of Thomasville. Having grown up in the same city, Mock knows the challenges some of his students face — poverty, gangs, drugs. He also knows there’s a way out and relays that hope to his students, especially now that furniture jobs are no longer an option.

“I get to interact and prepare them for life after school.” Mock said. “We talk about the military as an option. We talk about respecting people. We get kids who say they don’t like this teacher or that teacher, and that’s fine. But respect the position. You may not like how they present what they’re doing. In the military I didn’t like crawling or running in the morning, but I was able to see the benefit I got out of it. I learned about respect and how to carry myself as a young man. We want them to see what they’re responsible for.” Mock understands the fear of leaving home, the uncertainty of a clouded future. It’s his job to instill hope where none may exist. Through his own experiences, through a success story of one Thomasville kid seeing the world, Mock is showing a new generation of Chair City students that a pretty big world is out there waiting. It’s up to them whether or not they see it.

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memorial day 2012

Vietnam veteran overcomes nation’s scorn Daniel Kennedy | Staff Writer | 888-3575 • kennedy@tvilletimes.com

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veteran of Vietnam, Sgt. Robert H. Wilgus knows what it is to be rejected. When he returned to the United States after war in Asia during the 1970s, Wilgus was not received warmly. He was part of a group of men whose duty led them into some of the darkest places on earth, for which they were not repaid as heroes, but as second-rate citizens. In 1993, Wilgus began laying the groundwork for the next two generations that would follow him. His mission to establish a Junior Reserve Officer Training Camp program at Thomasville High School became a reality and he now serves as an Army instructor at the school. When asked why he finds this to be one of his greatest accomplish-

Sgt. Robert Wilgus U.S. Army

ments, Wilgus said he considers Memorial Day a prime example of why children must become better citizens and why they must be reminded of what it entails to live in a free country. “A lot of people think Memorial Day weekend is the first day of

summer, a time for parties,” Wilgus said. “They forget the meaning — to honor men and women who sacrifice their lives for this great country of ours.” Wilgus joined the Army in 1971 and underwent basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., before being dispatched to Vietnam, where he served as a helicopter mechanic, crew chief and gunner. When the war was over, Wilgus returned to the United States for a brief stay at Fort Hood, Texas, before being stationed in Korea in 1974. The groups of men with whom he served include H Troop, 17th Armored Cav Regiment and 1st Aviation Brigade. He became a flight school instructor at Fort Rucker, Ala., and retired from there in 1993, when he left Fort Rucker and came to Thomasville in July of the same year. He has resided in the Chair City ever since. Born and raised in New York City, Wilgus said living in the south has not presented any unforeseen challenges and believes the harsh nature of his upbringing, as well as more than two decades of service, prepared him for his life. “The Army became my family for 22 years,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of students who had problems and have seen them become very successful in life. It is wonderful to have former cadets come back as

soldiers, sailors, Marines with such stories. It gives you that good feeling. “I had one student that caused us to do poorly on an inspection conducted by Fort Bragg. Because of the poor inspection, it had to be re-inspected the next year. Instead of being the problem, he was the inspector and performed the inspection.” As he continues to find success

stories, like the one he described of Staff Sgt. Daniel Whitt, Wilgus maintains the self-imposed responsibility of raising awareness for a branch of society who risk life and limb. No matter whether it is appreciated or not.

A Proud Tribute We salute those who put their lives on the line for our country, making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the land they loved. We owe our freedom and our way of life to these brave men and women, and we proudly honor their memories this Memorial Day. To all of our veterans past and present, and those in uniform today, thank you for your service to our country.

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