Sgt. 1st Class Albert A. Mersch knows about sacrifice.
On a fateful night in Iraq in 2004, Mersch and his bunkmates were sleeping when a rocket detonated in their quarters, severely injuring Mercsh and killing his roommate, Staff Sgt. Darren Cunningham. Mersch was rushed to surgery, where doctors removed shrapnel near his lungs and heart, saving his life.
Mersch would rehab in Fort Hood, where the Illinois native would spend the rest of his military career — one that spanned 24 years in all — on the base, retiring 11 years later. Due to his sacrifice in battle, Mersch was awarded the Purple Heart.
It’s because of such stories that programs like the Folds of Honor were created. FOH has partnered with the Golf Coaches Association of America to make public the sacrifice of these wounded or fallen American soldiers, and now Mersch has become an instrumental figure in the lives of the McLennan Community College men’s golf team.
A charitable program, FOH seeks out former military men like Mersch, currently living in Troy, in an effort to connect them with area golf teams to share these wounded veterans’ stories. When Mersch was contacted, he jumped at the chance to do anything he could to help.
“I know the world has changed since I was in the Army, but hopefully I can give them a different perspective about what they could be facing once they leave school,” he said. “I hope it helps them take their experiences they have while in college and use those to add something positive to the community.”
Sgt. Mersch hooked up with MCC coach Vince Clark and spoke with the MCC golf team earlier in the fall. Clark had a specialty golf bag constructed for one of his players to carry each round. Clark said he hopes Mersch’s story and the privilege of toting the bag will stay with his golfers as they navigate through collegiate life and beyond.
“I was really moved by what the program is about and about the opportunity for golfers to try to help out these veterans and their families,” Clark said. “We are here in the United States of America and we have a privileged life to be able to do this because of people like sergeant Mersch and the men and women that protect our nation all around the globe.”
The bag is embroidered with Mersch’s name and the FOH insignia, but it’s what the bag stands for that Mersch and Clark are hopeful will inspire those that see it.
“Things like this bag help me interact with the younger generations and to share my experiences with them, and keep them connected with what’s going on in the world,” Mersch said.
Added Clark, “The kids are honored. They want to carry that bag because of what he did for us and the sacrifice these people make. I want to do this for my guys and the sergeant.”
With help from the school, the MCC men’s golf team is hosting Folds of Honor Night Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Highlands Gym, a night when the Highlander basketball team faces the Fort Hood Phantom Warriors.
It’s a free event, with special halftime activities that include the introduction of Sgt. Mersch, Dash for Cash and other entertainment sponsored by the Waco Hippodrome. Humphrey the Hippo, the Hippodrome’s mascot, will be making a special appearance along with MCC’s mascot, Mac. T. Highlander.
The MCC golfers will be selling raffle tickets with a chance to win the FOH golf bag. For more information or to make a donation to MCC’s Folds of Honor campaign, contact McLennan Athletics at email@example.com.