On an evening that was both light-hearted and reminiscent, Command Sgt. Maj. Willoughby K. Mercer retired from the Army March 5 after more than 33 years of service, with more than two decades of that time spent in the Army Reserve.

"Watching Soldiers grow and develop gave me pride," said Mercer as he reflected on mentorship and leadership during his retirement ceremony at O'Connor's American Bar & Grille in Eastampton Township, New Jersey.

Mercer most recently served as the command sergeant major for the Army Reserve's 1103rd Mobilization Support Battalion, stationed on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

"My advice for Soldiers is to always stand for the 'hard right' no matter if it's unpopular or else you'll fall for the 'easy wrong,'" said Mercer as he addressed approximately 75 other Soldiers and family members.

Mercer's military experiences include mobilizations for Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and other Contingency Operations. His overseas duty stations have included Korea, Germany, Japan and Iraq.

He was also assigned as a military police tactical team member for the Presidential Security Platoon for President Reagan's visit to Korea.

"He has always been a Soldier's Soldier," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Stotts Jr. when speaking of his friendship with Mercer.

Mercer graduated from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy in July 2004. His badges include the Combat Action Badge, Expert Drivers and Rifle Badge, and Sharpshooter Pistol Badge. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with 2nd oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation with 4th oak leaf clusters, and the Army Achievement Medal with 4th oak leaf clusters.

"I still have some work in me," said Mercer when asked about his future plans, adding that he has interest in becoming an Army Reserve ambassador.