The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy recognized two individuals Aug. 22 for their contributions to the education, training and lineage of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps and NCO Education System by inducting them into the USASMA Hall of Honor.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the Academy, hosted the event. Also attending were several special guests who included Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III and past Hall of Honor Inductees Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Spencer and Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Elder, U.S. Army retired. They were all their to welcome the newest members of the Hall of Honor – Command Sgt. Maj. Don Thomas, U.S. Army Retired and Sgt. Maj. Steven R. Merrill, U.S. Army retired. Thomas was unable to make the ceremony due to a personal medical emergency.
“Those selected for induction into the Hall of Honor are rare individuals who, over the course of their careers, have left a significant, lasting and positive impact on the training, education and development of NCOs,” Defreese said. “The two individuals we induct today are perfect examples of that.”
Defreese then gave short introductions for each inductee touching on their accomplishments and careers before unveiling their wall plaques which will hang in the Academy alongside their fellow inductees. Afterward the inductees were given the opportunity to address the crowd. The first to be inducted was Merrill.
“I whole did not expect to receive an award like this,” Merrill said. “I would like to thank the committee that did the selection. I especially what to my long time mentor, who has mentored me and provided a lot of input and direction and that is sergeant major retired Dan Hubbard.”
Merrill ended his remarks with some levity and thought provoking words.
“This is one of those truisms that you probably all have recognized and maybe not have articulated it, but every unit I was in in the army I found that about one third of the people love being in garrison, one third of the people love being in the field, and one third of the people think they screwed up royally by joining the army. So that no matter what you are doing, what you are trying to accomplish in your unit – two thirds of the people are already ticked off. So this isn’t a popularity contest. You have to do what you think is right, find those trusted agents to sound off with, and make sure that you are doing right, and then just continue to do right.”
Because Thomas was unable to attend the ceremony, Sullivan spoke on his behalf.
“I am going to say a few words about my friend sergeant major Don Thomas. He was stricken with a heart attack this morning and is probably on his way to Houston. He told me about two hours ago at the hospital that this honor was the highlight of his life. And he meant it. I know he regrets not being with you,” Sullivan said. “I have been all over the world with CSM Thomas and I can tell you, when you show up in Korea, Fort Hood, Texas, and other posts in the US Army, people flock to this great soldier. He is a great mentor, always willing to listen, listen to anybody’s problem, guide them in any way that he can and he is also fun to be with; a standard setter, a wonderful and magnificent soldier who has never stopped serving.”
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy Hall of Honor was established in May 2006, with the purpose of providing a highly visible and prestigious means of recognizing individuals who significantly contributed either to the Sergeants Major Academy or to the Noncommissioned Officer Education System.
Inductees must have served meritoriously in a position of great responsibility and provided service distinguished by meritorious achievement and significant improvements or enhancements to existing programs or procedures.