He is an American hero. He earned that status while serving our country.
Growing up in the Hickory Flat area of Cherokee County during the time when much of the community was still rural, he had jobs baling hay on Fred Haley’s Farms and working in Robert Mann’s greenhouses.
At the same time, he completed the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout.
Early in his life, Scott decided on a military career. He joined the Georgia Army National Guard in his teens. After high school graduation, the next 20 years of his life were split between the Navy and the Army.
He served in Kosovo, Iraq, Beirut, Asia, Germany and Venezuela. Being away from his wife and two children for long periods of time resulted in his marriage failing.
Well-versed in centuries of history of the Arab world, he uses that knowledge to explain what is happening in the Middle East now.
At the same time, he reflects on his time there to explain how many of the people who are not involved in the war are caught in the midst of it and live in poverty.
Did he ever ask himself if what he was doing was worth dying for? Yes, he did. But he could not dwell on it. For the protection of those around him and for himself, he had to stay focused.
Scott was in intelligence. He would meet with local people to form relationships and hopefully gather information about the movements and strongholds of the insurgents.
There are no front lines. The enemy may be anywhere around you without your knowing it.
Sept. 8, 2005, is a date he will never forget. He was in a convoy of four Humvees driving to a neighborhood known for being anti-American.
Two of the Humvees split off to check the area. Scott was in one that waited at a curve in the road for the others to come back. He was uncomfortable with their location. It was the kind of place where you might expect roadside bombs to be.
When the other Humvees returned, they all began to pull away. A roadside bomb was just ahead of the front tire on Scott’s side of the Humvee.
When the bomb exploded, the vehicle burst into flame. Under enemy fire and in a cloud of smoke, the men struggled out of the vehicle. The gunner was badly injured and had to be pulled out. Although it appeared he had been killed, they gave him CPR and brought him back. Scott, out in the open, ran to another of the Humvees to get a gurney for the wounded man.
After doing all they could for him, they knelt around the gunner and prayed as they waited for reinforcements and a medevac helicopter to arrive.
At first Scott did not realized he had been injured, too. He had a severe neck injury and soft-tissue damage to his left shoulder and left hip. He was taken to a trauma center in Baghdad. Only two weeks later he was back on the front lines. Later it was discovered that the pressure from the blast had also given him a brain injury.
“I’d try to tie my shoes and end up in the floor,” Scott said. My equilibrium had been severely affected.”
Scott is a compassionate person. Talking about whoever planted the roadside bomb, he said it was probably not any Taliban or anyone involved in the war.
Scott says it was probably a poor farmer without money to feed his family. The insurgents probably paid him to plant bombs.
Scott was injured again in Kosovo. After being flown to Germany, he was brought back to America.
Recently, Scott was selected to represent the Fort Gordon Wounded Warrior Project at a formal ball in Washington. In the pictures of him and his fiancee, Cherokee County Clerk of Court Patty Baker, he was in his dress uniform. As expected, he was wearing the many medals and ribbons he has earned, including his Purple Heart.
Because of the residual effects of his wounds, he will soon be taking forced retirement.
Scott McElroy served his country well for 20 years. But it appears our country is not serving him equally well. After his retirement, he will not get his well-earned military benefits for 290 days while the paperwork is being processed.
But there are positives in his future. He will continue to protect you and me as he works on the SWAT team in the Sheriff’s Department.
And, best of all, he and Patty will have their wedding in November.
Best wishes Scott. You deserve the best.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.