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Air Cav Trooper's Selfless Service Helps Children of Cove
by Army Sgt. Richard Wrigley - September 4, 2012

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FORT HOOD, Texas (8/28/2012) — "It's about giving back to a community that has given so much to you,” said Sgt. Johnny Merical, a native of Dallas Center, Iowa, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer for B Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Merical headed a fundraiser to provide school supplies for the Mae Stevens Elementary school in Copperas Cove, Texas.

A student from Mae Stevens Elementary School thankfully shakes the hand of Sgt. Johnny Merical, a native of Dallas Center, Iowa, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer for B Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Merical and other soldiers of the 615th ASB helped collect and deliver donated school supplies at Mae Stevens Elementary School in Copperas Cove, Texas, Aug. 22, 2012. Merical and his family will be leaving the Fort Hood area soon, so Merical took it upon himself to collect what turned out to be about $2,500 worth of new school supplies for the students of Mae Stevens Elementary. Photo by Army Sgt. Richard Wrigley
A student from Mae Stevens Elementary School thankfully shakes the hand of Sgt. Johnny Merical, a native of Dallas Center, Iowa, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer for B Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Merical and other soldiers of the 615th ASB helped collect and deliver donated school supplies at Mae Stevens Elementary School in Copperas Cove, Texas, Aug. 22, 2012. Merical and his family will be leaving the Fort Hood area soon, so Merical took it upon himself to collect what turned out to be about $2,500 worth of new school supplies for the students of Mae Stevens Elementary. Photo by Army Sgt. Richard Wrigley
 For more than a month he collected donations. With help from other soldiers in his platoon, he purchased school supplies and presented the donations at Mae Stevens Elementary School, Aug. 22.

After Merical and his fellow soldiers set up a display of all of the new school supplies in the school's gymnasium, members of the community, along with children, parents and school faculty came by to hear Merical explain why he did all of this.

Merical told the people in attendance about his time in Copperas Cove and how the community had supported him.

"I've been here almost six years, and have lived here the whole time. I'm leaving now, but the community has supported me whenever I needed it, and the school district really looked out for my family when they allowed my children to stay in Mae Stevens even though the re-zoning could have forced them to go to a different school," Merical said.

While this is the biggest volunteer effort that Merical has undertaken, he is no stranger to the selfless service of volunteer work, said Capt. Nicholaus Cortez,

originally from Iowa City, Iowa, a platoon leader in B Company, 615th ASB.

"He's done a lot of volunteering for the unit and the surrounding community. When I think of Sgt. Merical, I think of selfless service," added Cortez.

"He is also a very disciplined,” Cortez said. “In my opinion his professionalism and work ethic are unparalleled at his level within the platoon.”

The students and family members of the school were in dire need of the supplies, which was also a main factor behind the decision to donate specifically to Mae Stevens Elementary, added Merical.

Joe Burns, the superintendent for the Copperas Cove Independent School District, echoed Merical's sentiment.

"About 63 percent of this campus' student population consists of kids who receive free or reduced lunches. This means that a lot of the families that have kids who attend here simply don't have the resources to provide [the children] with all the things they need for school," Burns said.

"This donation Sgt. Merical put together ... will go a long, long way to meeting the needs of those families," Burns added.

Another official from the Coppers Cove ISD talked about how the results of the fund raiser will benefit the students as they begin this school year.

"Many of these students are used to getting hand-me-down materials. Just imagine how happy these students will be to have a brand-new notebook or binder this year," said Rick Kirkpatrick, the deputy superintendant for Copperas Cove ISD.

Merical said he hopes that his and his fellow soldiers' efforts to help the families of the local community will have a lasting impact.

"This is going to help the kids, this is going to help the families ... My family and I are about to leave, but the good that this has done for the community will last much longer than that," said Merical. 

More photos available below

By Army Sgt. Richard Wrigley
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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