Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sergeant Audie Murphy Club seeks to carry on legacy of namesake

Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated U.S. soldier of World War II. He earned the Medal of Honor — the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with more than 30 other U.S. and foreign medals and citations during his 27 months of combat action. It’s been said that Murphy received every U.S. medal available at the time; five of them awarded more than once.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Audie Murphy was a mere 5 feet 5 inches tall, but by most accounts, he was a true American hero.

A hero is a person “distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility and strength,” according to Webster’s Online Dictionary. “A person normally becomes a hero by performing an extraordinary and praiseworthy deed,” Wikipedia says. By these standards, Murphy was a hero.

In his short lifetime (46 years), Murphy, the son of poor Texas sharecroppers, would become the most highly decorated U.S. Soldier of World War II. He earned the Medal of Honor the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with more than 30 other U.S. and foreign medals and citations during his 27 months of combat action. It’s been said that Murphy received every U.S. medal available at the time; five of them awarded more than once.

He earned the Medal of Honor for saving his company in January 1945. After his company’s retreat because of enemy fire, Murphy jumped onto an abandoned tank and used its .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy at bay, even though the vehicle was on fire and could have exploded, thereby saving his company.

After the service, Murphy became an actor, songwriter, poet, rancher and businessman.

In addition to his heroics on the battlefield, Murphy became a hero to many off the battlefield when he spoke out about war-related mental conditions of troops and the needs of America’s military veterans. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his return from the war, and he urged Congress to give greater consideration and study to the emotional toll of combat on troops, and to extend health care benefits to those who had PTSD and other mental-health challenges caused by their combat experiences.

Murphy died at 46 in a 1971 plane crash in Virginia. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Va.), and according to cemetery officials, his gravesite is the second-most visited grave at Arlington, after that of President John F. Kennedy.

Audie Murphy legacy

Leadership, professionalism, loyalty, discipline and caring helped Murphy become a legend on and off the battlefield, and those qualities are at the heart of the Army,s noncommissioned officer’s professional spirit and the basis for becoming a member of the club which bears his name, the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club (SAMC).

Founded in 1986, the SAMC was established at Fort Hood in Murphy’s home state of Texas. Leading the effort was Lt. Gen. Crosbie Saint, then the 3rd Corps commander; his Command Sgt. Maj. George L. Horvath; then 3rd Corps awards clerk Jean Crisp; and Don Moore, a Killeen artist who assisted with designing the logo and club awards.

“When I first got to 3rd Corps and Fort Hood in 1985, my vision was to have a Sergeant Morales Club chapter [there],” said the now retired Horvath. “My thought was that it would be a great way to spread the name and fame of the Sergeant Morales Club.”

Sergeant Morales is a fictional NCO who is intended to represent the ideal Army NCO.

Horvath said his request to establish a chapter of the Sergeant Morales Club at Fort Hood was denied because officials said the club was “unique to Europe based units, and that allowing a chapter in the United States would dilute the purpose of the club.”

“With a vision to have a club that would best exemplify the outstanding young NCOs at Fort Hood and in the Corps, I started the search [for a club name],” Horvath said.

“Then, along with my public affairs sergeant major, we read the story of a true, real-life Texas hero Audie Murphy,” Horvath said. “This guy had it all in his background son of sharecroppers, soldier, NCO, battlefield commission and the rest.

“We drove to his hometown, met with his wife and asked her for permission to use her husband’s name and fame to highlight outstanding young NCOs who exhibit the attitudes and traits of Audie Murphy, thereby spreading the name, fame and story of Audie.

“She told us that if Audie was alive, he would be happy to lend his name to such a noble endeavor. The rest is history,” Horvath said.

Sergeant Audie Murphy Club

In 1991, then 3rd Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, and 3rd Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Richard B. Cayton expanded the Fort Hood SAMC to include all of III Corps. This included Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Polk, La.; and Fort Carson, Colo.

In 1994 at a Sergeant Major of the Army conference, the SAMC spread Army-wide.

In 2002, Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr., of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, gave the directive to form a SAMC at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Master Sgt. Christy A. Martinez and Sgt. 1st. Class David V. Ross led the effort. Five NCOs were considered for induction into the SAMC at WRAMC, and on Feb. 27, 2002, then-NARMC and WRAMC commander Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley inducted the first two NARMC NCOs into the SAMC at WRAMC Staff Sgts. Jason H. Alexander and Christopher B. Cordova.

Walter Reed’s SAMC chapter became official following its first election in March 2003.

Alexander, now a promotable sergeant first class, was named the Army’s NCO of the year in 2006.

“For me, the [SAMC] has become more than what I expected when I was first inducted in 2002,” Alexander said. “As a Soldier at Fort Hood during the 1990s, I viewed Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members as NCOs who not only walked on water, but walked above it. I was inspired by the mere presence of a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club member just as Soldiers are inspired by the presence of command sergeants major. As my career has progressed, I have found new meaning in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. I now view it as my way of being involved with Soldiers and our community. No matter where I work, for instance now in NARMC Operations, I can still be a part of mentoring Soldiers by participating in Sergeant Audie Murphy Club’s weekly study sessions and volunteering at local community events,” Alexander said.

Study halls sponsored by members of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club are every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Medical Center Brigade Conference Room in Bldg. T-2. NCOs interested SAMC can attend the study sessions.

“Soldiers do not need bosses, they need leaders and mentors,” Alexander added. “Becoming a member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club affords NCOs the opportunity to be leaders and mentors, no matter where they go in their military careers.”

“Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members are dedicated to improving cohesion within the organization and its outlining communities, as well as to improving the NCO Corps,” said Staff Sgt. Anton Arbatov, a member of SAMC inducted in April through the WRAMC chapter.

Arbatov, operations NCO for the Medical Center Brigade, said candidates for SAMC “must be able to demonstrate selflessness through participation in off-duty activities that benefits others.”

The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club encourages its members to continue their community involvement once they are inducted into the club, and they provide avenues to make this possible. SAMC members recently served lunch at the Armed Forces Retirement Home during AFRH’s celebration of the Air Force 62nd anniversary Sept. 18.

“The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides an opportunity to be a part of an organization of outstanding, like-minded NCOs who are willing to go out of their way to help each other, Soldiers, and the unit,” Arbatov said. “SAMC members motivate each other to go the extra mile every day, and to give back to the community.”

Horvath said this was the purpose for SAMC when it was established, and chapters today must maintain this mission.

“[As a member of SAMC], your whole purpose is to live and breathe training, taking care of and mentoring your subordinates. You also have to remember, what you learn, you must pass on to others.

“As the U.S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army continue to drawdown and the numbers of Morales club members decline, I see the role of the SAMC gaining more influence as the prime NCO leadership club which best exemplifies what a professional, dedicated, well-trained NCO Corps is all about,” Horvath said.

For more information about SAMC, call Sgt. 1st Class Alexander at (202) 782-3448, or Staff Sgt. Arbatov at (202) 356-1012, Ext. 42175.