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Veterans Day event returns live to Averitt Center with McLaughlin as guest speaker
Sean McLaughlin is shown here during a deployment to  Iraq in the early 2000s.
Sean McLaughlin is shown here during a deployment to Iraq in the early 2000s.

After the tradition was maintained via prerecorded online streaming last year, the annual Veterans Day observance hosted by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 will welcome the public, live and in-person, to the Emma Kelly Theater on Veterans Day 2021, Thursday, Nov. 11.

The featured speaker, retired U.S. Army Maj. Sean McLaughlin, a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who now serves in a civilian role as chief of plans and training for Winn Army Hospital at Fort Stewart, plans to talk about the concept of service to community and country.

Doors to the theater, which is part of the Averitt Center for the Arts, 33 East Main St., Statesboro, will open one hour before this free event begins at 10:30 a.m. The Daughters of the American Revolution will provide coffee and doughnuts, and Jack Kindig and his Music Messengers are slated to perform before and between the ceremonial and speaking portions of the program.

“I’m extremely excited about continuing the tradition,” said American Legion Post 90 Commander Lonnie Ellis. “I think it’s something that all Americans should take pride in, the service men and women of this great nation. We have a great speaker this year. He’s extremely intelligent, very knowledgeable, well-spoken. He served in the Army for 25 years, and he rose through the ranks from enlisted to retire as a major.”

In a phone interview Friday, McLaughlin said he was still working on his speech but had the theme in mind.

“Regardless of politics, et cetera, there are people who sign up to serve their country, and some have paid the highest price for it,” he said.  “But after you get out of the military I don’t think your service should end. People should continue to serve their community as best they can, in any capacity they can, and that’s what I’d like to speak to.”

 

Military family

Asked about his life and career, McLaughlin described himself as “a son of a son of a sailor” who, after seeing “a tank jump across the TV screen in 1991,” decided to join the Army, initially to his father’s chagrin. Both McLaughlin’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, and father, a Vietnam War veteran, had served aboard Navy aircraft carriers. His father went on to serve also in the Air Force. McLaughlin said that he, like many people from career military families, can’t really claim just one hometown. But his family has roots in San Diego, California.

After enlisting in 1991, McLaughlin served as a tank mechanic before temporarily leaving the active-duty Army with the enlisted grade of E-5 sergeant in 1997. Then he enrolled at Armstrong State University in Savannah and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, which for Armstrong students was already operated through Georgia Southern University’s program. The Armstrong campuses themselves have since been made part of Georgia Southern.

In 2001, he graduated from Armstrong with a degree in political science and simultaneously received his commission as a second lieutenant. His first duty station as an officer was with the 1-37 Armor stationed in Friedberg, Germany.

McLaughlin was deployed to Iraq three times and promoted. As a tank platoon leader, he participated in the invasion in 2003, arriving in Baghdad “the day after the statue fell” and in the Battle of Karbala in 2004.

He commanded a troop in the 5-7 Cavalry and later commanded the 1st Battalion of the 306th Infantry Regiment.

In 2007-2008, McLaughlin also served as an ROTC instructor, back at Georgia Southern working with Eagle Battalion cadets. He retired from military service in 2015.

But then he worked as an analyst for Boeing, the multinational aerospace and defense company, in Grafenwoehr, Germany until November 2020, when he took the job at Winn Army Hospital. He has attained some master’s degrees since graduating from Georgia Southern.

 

Honored battalion

McLaughlin is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart but said he did not want to call attention to these things.  The injury that qualified him for the Purple Heart resulted from a grenade blast in Baghdad, after which he returned to work with no lasting disability, he said when asked about this specifically.

The one honor that he volunteered information on without being asked was the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the entire 1-37 Armor, or 1st Battalion of the 37th Armored Regiment, for its actions in Karbala.

Now he and his wife, Doris, and their 10-year-old twins, Audrey and Patrick, live in Brooklet. Doris McLauglin, a registered nurse, works at East Georgia Regional Medical Center.

Sean McLaughlin has been volunteering in efforts to re-activate Cub Scout Pack 337 in Brooklet and is an active supporter of his daughter’s soccer team, a part of Tormenta  FC’s youth programs.

He is also active in American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90.

 

November 11

Thursday’s program will also include brief remarks by Ellis, prayers led by post Chaplain Barbara Thames, a musical “Salute to the Services,” and readings and remarks from other veterans and DAR and Averitt Center representatives.

The event will be held on a weekday morning because the American Legion insists that Veterans Day be observed on the correct date whenever possible and not moved to a three-day weekend, Ellis  noted.

Veteran’s Day originated as Armistice Day, and the cease fire officially ending World War I took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 103 years ago this Thursday.

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