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GMC News

Citizen-Soldier Award

GMC to honor pair of cadets who lost their lives in Iraq
By Pam Beer
The Baldwin Bulletin

Two former Georgia Military College cadets serving with the 48th Brigade of the Georgia National Guard lost their lives this summer while serving in Iraq, and efforts are underway at the school to commemorate the spirit in which they served their country.

“The Citizen-Soldier Award will recognize the cadets who best exemplify love of country and the virtue of duty,” said GMC dean of students Col. Patrick Beer. “It is an annual award that will be presented at the annual military honors parade. It will help keep alive the noble sacrifices made by GMC’s alumni and cadets serving on the frontiers of freedom.”

The 48th Brigade, which deployed to Iraq in May 2005, saw its first fatality less than two months later, as Sgt. Chad Mercer, a former GMC cadet, died on June 30. Maj. Charles Bennett, GMC Class of 1985, was the battalion executive officer for the unit in which Mercer served – the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment of the 48th Brigade. After Mercer’s death Bennett originated the idea of the award; the original concept was to have a memorial of some sort to honor Mercer’s sacrifice. However, with the Aug. 16 death of GMC alumnus Sgt. Michael Stokely, the idea of a memorial expanded to include the service that all of GMC’s alumni and cadets have provided.

In an email correspondence, Bennett expressed his feelings about the award. “As an alum of GMC I am very proud of all of the GMC soldiers that have served their country. I think that is especially touching that we can recognize cadets, alumni, and others with an award named after Chad Mercer. Chad was a fine gentleman, fine soldier, and wonderful person,” Bennett wrote. “Georgia Military College is being represented well by the soldiers that have either graduated from GMC or who were students.

“When I think of Chad, I think of a patriot; a man who put others first; and I think that everyone of the cadets and/or graduates of GMC should remember and honor those cadets that have given their lives in defense of our country. Michael Stokely and other students have fought and died defending our great nation too,” Bennett continued. “It is fitting that we should remember them, honor them, and remind the recipients of the memorial medal of the responsibility bestowed on them by them being awarded the memorial medal. The recipients who receive the award will be marked and great things will be expected of them.”

The Citizen-Soldier Award consists of a medal, ribbon and certificate. It will be awarded beginning in 2006, and Beer hopes that a GMC alumnus that served in Iraqi Freedom will be on hand at the award ceremony that year and in subsequent years to present the award to the recipient.