National Guard center renamed for fallen soldier
By Miles Layton
Monday, April 30, 2018
EDENTON — State National Guard’s Edenton Readiness Center was renamed Sunday as the Sgt. Jeremy Hardison Center.
The dedication honors Hardison, who was a member of the NC National Guard’s 514th Military Police Company. On Oct. 1, 2012, while on a dismounted patrol in Khowst City, Afghanistan, an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated near his patrol. Hardison succumbed to his wounds at the scene.
“Today, we say thank you to Sgt. Hardison's family for their sacrifice. We honor him by dedicating this building to serve as a lasting symbol,” NC National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jesse Visconti said. “His memory will be carried on throughout the generations of soldiers who train here to support our state in times of disaster, and to fight overseas for the freedoms Sgt. Hardison paid the ultimate price to protect. The United States, the United States Army, the state of North Carolina and the men and women who serve in the National Guard are forever grateful for Sgt. Hardison's sacrifice.”
Paul Gradus, with the NC National Guard Survivor Outreach Service, said the Tar Heel state’s 26 service personnel who were killed in combat will be honored in the same way. Starting in November, the National Guard began renaming its facilities in honor of those fallen soldiers and will continue with this solemn duty until the end of the year in December. March is National Guard Heritage Month in North Carolina.
Brig. Gen. Allen Boyette spoke from the heart about Hardison's sacrifice to honor a creed that values duty and honor during his tour of service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“Our American way of life is special,” Boyette said. “It's different. If you've been around the world and seen different cultures, you recognize that. Having men like Sgt. Jeremy Hardison volunteer to defend that way of life — that's special and something that we all have great appreciation for and for his sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of his family.”
Hardison felt the call of duty much like the National Guard soldiers gathered Sunday at the armory to pay their respects.
“He stands in a long line of militia men and Guardsmen that have stepped forward and defended our nation and state in the past," Boyette said. “That long line of history will continue past us and past all the soldiers here, especially with this armory's re-dedication, and it will extend out into the future. He'll always be a part of that.”
There was a framed photo of Hardison by the podium where Boyette spoke as he explained the meaning of a special patch on the fallen soldier's shoulder. The patch featured a black hornet and its nest. The general said the patch traces its origins to the Revolutionary War. When British Gen. Cornwallis invaded the old North State, he described it as having kicked up a hornets' nest of opposition from the militia that ground down the Redcoats.
Hardison, 23, hailed from Maysville.
“That patch is symbolic of how those early guardsmen, those early militia men, were doing the exact same thing that Jeremy was doing,” Boyette said. “They were volunteering to put their personal lives on hold by volunteering to step up and serve and to defend their state and their nation. Stopping tyranny, stopping terrorism, stopping those whose aim is to destroy our American way of life — that's exactly what those soldiers and militia did back in the Revolutionary War. That's exactly what Jeremy did for us during his tour of duty in 2008 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 2012 in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Re-naming the armory pays tribute to the values that Hardison died to defend.
“The Edenton armory now serves as a symbol to recognize Sgt. Hardison and his sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of his family,” Boyette said. “That sacrifice will be remembered in a more permanent way as a lasting monument that will be here. He's our legacy. He's the motivation. He's our encouragement that what we do, how we serve is important and vital to our state and nation.”
Hardison's sacrifice will echo throughout eternity.
“He inspires us, the current soldiers, every day that we put the uniform on,” Boyette said. “By re-naming this armory, he will inspire future generations of soldiers as they volunteer to defend our American way of life.”
Hardison's family and friends attended the somber ceremony.
“I know right now Jeremy is looking down on everybody here,” said Hardison's brother-in-law, Thomas Schmidt, who was choked up with emotion as he spoke. “He's been a great brother to me, a great brother to his sister and a great son to his parents. We've all had a lot of good memories with him. I know that with this dedication, he's honored and he'll always be honored. I salute him every day and pray to him for all that he's given us. He is the one true hero in my life and the life of our family. He will always be missed and always be loved.”
Hardison's family, National Guard troops and officers gathered outside to unveil the armory's new sign.
Moments after Hardison's parents saw the sign bearing their son's name, they took a moment to reflect.
“This will be a memory that everyone will always remember,” said Hardison's father, Jerry. “He was a good son. He never really gave no trouble to anyone. He was always doing something. He was always working, probably ever since he was 13 years old. He joined the National Guard when he was 18. He was always the type that if he started something, he'd finish it no matter what it was.”
A tear flowed down the cheek of his mother, Teresa.
“Very emotional day. I think things have gone great,” she said. “Everybody did a good job. He was a very wonderful son — couldn't ask for anybody better.”