During its 2017-18 season, the McLennan Community College men's golf team participated in the Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program (FHMTP). Folds of Honor (FOH) is a preferred charitable partner of the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) and honors fallen or severely wounded American soldiers. The program "works to ensure that no family is left behind in the fight to preserve American freedom. Through scholarships and other assistance, they give back to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country." McLennan was one of only a handful of schools from across the United States to join the FHMTP program and the only two-year college to participate.
Throughout the year, the Highlander team honored Sgt. 1 Class Albert A. Mersch by carrying a special McLennan golf bag displaying his name, rank and branch of service at each of their tournaments. Raffle tickets for the bag were sold at various McLennan events throughout the year, and the team raised $1,000 that has been donated to the FHMTP. A drawing for the bag was held following the Highlanders' return from the NJCAA national tournament, and former McLennan vice president Gene Gooch was the winner.
"We joined the Folds of Honor because we wanted to celebrate heroes like Sgt. 1st Class Mersch for his service and sacrifice," head coach Vince Clark said. "We wanted to raise money to help the families of veterans like Mersch pay for college educations, and my golfers and I wanted to learn from Mersch's life and example. We are honored to include him in our McLennan family."
Clark and the Highlanders will continue their participation with the FHMTP next fall and will be paired with another well-deserving military family. To find out how you can join the Highlanders in supporting Folds of Honor, contact Vince Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sgt. 1st Class Albert A. Mersch's Story
Sgt. 1st Class Albert A. Mersch was born in 1965 and grew up in the small town of Frankfort, Illinois. After graduating from Lincoln-Way High School in 1983, he attended the University of Illinois at Chicago. After completing one year of college, Mersch joined the United States Army. He completed his initial training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in 1984 and moved on to duty assignments in Germany (twice); Korea (twice); Fort Story and Fort Eustis, Virginia; Grand Forks, North Dakota; and Fort Hood, Texas (twice).
Mersch deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999 and Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. While in Iraq, Mersch was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received as a result of an enemy rocket attack on Sept. 30, 2004. Mersch was injured when a rocket was fired into his basecamp in Baghdad and detonated in his sleeping quarters as he slept. The explosion killed his roommate, Staff Sgt. Darren Cunningham, and resulted in a severe chest wound on Mersch's right side. After surgery to remove shrapnel near his heart and lungs, Mersch was returned to Fort Hood via medevac. Mersch returned to full military duty following eight weeks of treatment and continued his military duties until his retirement Aug. 1, 2008 – with more than 24 years of active military service.
Mersch's family stood proudly with him during his successful military career. He has been married to Melinda (also an Army veteran) for 24 years and has two daughters, Micaela and Ashley. Micaela attends Simpson College in Iowa and is a member of the women's basketball team. Ashley is a fifth-grader at Troy Elementary School in Troy, Texas. Mersch continues with his service to our nation as a human resources specialist at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Medical Center in Temple, Texas.