Major Charles (Chuck) Merkel - US Army (Retired) - Freeport, FL

Chuck Merkel’s entire life has been the epitome of the philosophy of service before self, whether it is for the Nation he loves, his adopted home State of Florida or the veterans, residents and students in his local community. He has been tireless in his support of the local community and has made significant contributions with his efforts to help students to achieve their goal of attending the United States Military Academy at West Point or his visits to retirement homes to let veterans of World War II and Korea know that they are not forgotten

As a veteran of the Vietnam War and the more recent Operation Enduring Freedom he can relate to veterans of different generations to provide them with support and he is equally comfortable being a guest speaker for the moving exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Wall as he is showing slides to the members of the Fort Walton Military Affairs Committee and/or business or civic groups relating his experiences in Afghanistan.

When it comes to volunteering his time, talents and treasure to support various activities in the local area his is the first hand that goes up and all know they can count on him to keep his word and get the job done. His active involvement with various Veterans’ Organizations in support of active duty and veterans’ programs are legend and he is recognized as a community leader and the “go to” person whenever a committee is being formed or a veteran needs assistance. 

​​He is equally comfortable as a leader or a member of the group. For example, although he was in Afghanistan he orchestrated the collection of much-needed school supplies by church groups, school districts and individual citizens in Northwest Florida. He then distributed the supplies to 250 children from the City of Kandahar and passed along the gratitude of Afghan General Sherzai to his fellow Floridians. Thus his selfless service extends far beyond the boundaries of the State of Florida and has impacted people worldwide.

Education and Training Accomplishments:

Civilian Education:

  • Columbus State University (Georgia), Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degrees in both English and History. Graduated Summa Cum Laude, Elected to Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honor Society, Lambda Iota Tau English Honor Society.
  • Troy State University (Alabama), Master of Science (MS) Degree in Foundations of Education.
  • Temple University (Pennsylvania), Master of Arts (MA) Degree in History. Elected to Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.
  • Florida State University (Florida), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree in History.

​Military Education/Training:

  • Completed Rotary Aviator Training and designated a Military Aviator in 1968.
  • Graduate of the Infantry Officers Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1974.
  • Graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1984.
  • Completed Airborne Training in 1974.
  • Completed Test and Evaluation Management Course in 1978.

Civil Service Education/Training:

  • Completed US Air Force Historian Basic and Historian Contingency Courses in 2008. Selected to serve as adjunct instructor for subsequent courses.
  • Completed numerous professional training programs in preparation for multiple deployments with the United States Air Force.

Professional or Employment History:

  • United States Army. Completed over twenty years of service with the United States Army with a variety of assignments in various locations to include overseas deployments/tours in the Republics of South Vietnam and Korea. Served as a test pilot responsible for providing technical expertise, planning and conducting military potential testing on a variety of aviation-related development projects and on a subsequent assignment served as Division Chief/Tcst Projects Officer with the Electronics Systems Test Division at the US Army Aviation Board to conduct operational testing on aviation components. Also served as Senior Assistant Professor of Military Science and Professor of Military Science at a Military Junior College, as well as Chief Testing Officer and Assistant Program Manager for several Light Combat Vehicles while assigned to the US Army Tank- Automotive Command. Received numerous military awards and promotions while on active duty as outlined on the enclosed DD Form 214 and in Section 7 of this nomination.
  • Public School Teacher: After retirement from the US Army, spent two years teaching at Freeport High School for the Walton County School System. Certified by the Florida Department of Education to teach English, History and Social Studies courses in State of Florida School Districts. Initially assigned to teach students who were identified as “at risk” to drop out of school prior to graduation. One of the greatest rewards while in this position was to see several of those students walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas.
  • Air Force Civilian Support Contractor with Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Joint System Program Office (AMRAAM-JSPO). Served as Senior Acquisition Program Manager with a variety of support contractors (i.e. Sverdrup, SEMCOR, CSC) responsible for providing acquisition management support as well as the evaluating and processing of Value Engineering Change Proposals (VECPs). Presented with the Department of Defense Value Engineering Achievement Award for Fiscal Year 1993 for helping to save the government $28 million during that year.
  •  Prime AMRAAM Contractor. Employed by Raytheon Company as Manager of Special Test Vehicles (STVs) responsible for scheduling, management and upgrading of all STVs and Special Test Equipment. Interfaced with DOD, contractor and foreign customers to insure requirements were met and assets were on hand in time to support scheduled tests. Rewarded annually with financial bonuses in recognition of the quality of work.
  • US Air Force Civil Service. Served as Historian on the staff of the 53d Wing at Eglin Air Force Base. Occupied an Emergency Essential position (one of only two on Eglin), which meant it made him subject to periodic worldwide deployments for onsite support of military actions and civil disasters. Deployed for about six months at a time to both Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing and to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia as part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Received numerous monetary and time-off awards in recognition of service to the wing. Other awards and decorations earned during this period are listed in Section 7 of this nomination.

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:

  • West Point Society of Northwest Florida (Life Member). Elected as President and appointed as Secretary. Organized and conducted annual Army- Navy Football game party for both Army and Navy veterans and active duty personnel. Conducted an annual Founders Day dinner to celebrate the founding of the United States Military Academy at West Point on 16 March 1802. While deployed overseas he organized a West Point Society of Southwest Asia and held a Founders Day dinner for the deployed personnel in his area (including the newly designated USMA Superintendent).
  • Association of the United States Army (Life Member). Appointed as a member of the Executive Committee to assist with a variety of activities in support of soldiers in our area who are assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group, Camp Rudder Ranger Camp and the Explosives, Ordnance and Demolition School. Manned a booth and actively supported the local community during Military Appreciation Days. Actively participated in annual Veteran “Stand down” activities when veterans in the local area are provided with an opportunity to receive clothing, medical/dental examinations and clear their record of minor traffic and other types of offenses. Attendee at most memorial services in honor of fallen heroes who are assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group.
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart (Life Member). Actively support the annual POW/MIA ceremonies held at the Air Force Armament Museum each September, as well as other MOPH community events (e.g., unveiling of a military park in Freeport, Florida).
  • Order of Daedalians (Life Member). Regular attendee at Daeldalian dinners and served as a guest speaker for a meeting of the Daedalians.
  • Casper Aviation Platoon Organization. Elected President and registered organization as a cooperating partner in the Vietnam War Commemoration effort. Provided pins and copies of the Presidential Proclamations to several hundred Vietnam Veterans.
  • Military Officers Association (Life Member). Regular attendee at the monthly luncheons, served as a guest speaker, and led group in recognition of the Army’s birthday during one of the meetings.
  • Army Aviation Association of America (Life Member). Provided financial support for the scholarship fund and founded a chapter at Valley Forge Military Academy and Junior College to introduce the cadets to the field of Army Aviation and the benefits of an aviation career.
  • Air Force Association (Life Member). Attended luncheon in honor of the retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force who was living in the local area and director of the Bob Hope Enlisted Village. Visited residents to insure they knew they were not forgotten and their service was very much appreciated.

Civic Activities and Contributions:

  • Congressional District Coordinator and Field Force Member. For 18 years Dr. Merkel has served as the liaison between the Admissions Office and Florida’s First Congressional District to help literally hundreds of applicants and candidates with their applications to West Point and conduct interviews with potential candidates to try to determine their chances of graduating from the Academy. As a result, over the years he and his team have enjoyed a high success rate with those who have been accepted as cadets at the United States Military Academy and they have provided a steady stream of new lieutenants for our Army in service to the country.
  • US Air Force Armament Museum. Served on committee and actively helped organize a “Spirit of ‘45” ceremony to honor veterans of World War II. On the date of the ceremony several hundred veterans attended the celebration. Gave a talk on the contributions of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) to provide recognition to this important group of veterans.
  • US Air Force Armament Museum. Served on committee to organize and conduct a “Welcome Home” celebration for Veterans of the Vietnam War. Manned a table for the West Point Society of Northwest Florida and provided veterans with a commemorative pin and Presidential Proclamation in recognition of their service to our country.
  • Honor Flight. Contributed funds and participated as a guardian for three World War II veterans on a one-day flight to Washington, D. C. so they could see the World War II Monument. Helped organize a welcome home celebration at the aiiport when these heroes returned from their trip.
  • Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. Served on a committee to organize a huge “Welcome Home” luncheon and related activities for Vietnam Veterans. In addition to providing slides and flags he persuaded AFVN radio personality and actress Chris Noel to attend the festivities and be the keynote speaker for the event.
  • Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. Provided financial support for scholarship fund and attended a special dinner to honor Lt Col Dick Cole, who was General Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the famous World War II raid on Japan. Dinner also honored one of the last of the “Rosie the Riveter” women who performed so magnificently in factories during World War II, as well as other veterans of the conflict.
  • Visits to Retirement Homes. Along with other active and retired military members of the 53d Wing, Dr. Merkel donned his uniform on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Christmas and Valentine’s Day to visit elderly and disabled veterans and widows in retirement homes to thank them for their service to our country and let them know they are not forgotten. At Christmas gifts they had requested were distributed and on Valentine’s Day, veterans and widows were given handmade Valentine cards that have been provided by school children in the local area.
  • Guest Speaker. Often invited to be a guest speaker for Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Military Affairs Committees, Church Groups and other civic organizations in our area to share his military and/or deployment experiences with members of the local community.

Awards and Honors:

  • Dr. Merkel and his wife were honored to be among the invited guests of Governor and Mrs. Rick Scott when they hosted a dinner for Community Leaders.
  • First Congressional District Congressman Jeff Miller read Dr. Merkel’s record of service into the Congressional Record, Volume 162, Number 133.
  • Presented the John L. Geoghegan Alumni Citizenship Award in 2009 from the Widener-PMC Alumni Association. Lt. Geoghegan was a 1963 graduate of Pennsylvania Military College and was killed in Vietnam in 1965 while attempting to rescue one of his wounded soldiers. The battle was the subject of the book and movie We Were Soldiers Once…and Young.
  • Inducted into the Henry H. “Hap” Arnold Society by the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy in recognition of numerous contributions in support of the academy and the Corps of Cadets.
  • Presented with the 2011 Distinguished Alumnus for Military Service Award by Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.
  • Selected as the 53d Wing Staff Civilian of the Year for 2010 and Wing Staff Civilian of the Quarter for the Fourth Quarter of 2014.

Military Awards:

  • Legion of Merit
  • Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Purple Heart
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Air Medal with Number 11
  • Army Commendation with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • Humanitarian Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal
  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Overseas Service Medal and
  • Vietnam Service Medal.

Civil Service Awards:

  • Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award (Civil Service equivalent to the Legion of Merit)
  • Award for Meritorious Civilian Service
  • Exemplary Civilian Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Global War on Terrorism Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal