FORT STEWART, Ga. - Staff Sergeant Johnny Merriweather of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment received the Hugh Casey Award, May 15, outside the 2/7 Inf. Regt. headquarters for his actions over the last year. The award is given every year and highlights the best noncommissioned officer in the entire 7th Infantry Regiment.

"I'm told that each year the Hugh Casey award is presented to the best of the best in the 7th Infantry Regiment NCO Corps," said Staff Sgt. Merriweather. "This year I had the fortunate honor of receiving it. It was quite a surprise to me because you have to be nominated by your first sergeant and commander, and they nominated me unknowingly to me. So when my first sergeant called me last weekend and told me the news, I was very shocked."

However, 2/7 Inf. Regt. commander Lt. Col. Gregory Sierra had more than modest words to say about the award and its recipient.

"Last year just after I had taken command, I was running physical training with Staff Sgt. Merriweather's platoon," said Lt. Col. Sierra. "We were doing a release run, so when we got to the turn around point, everyone shot off like a cannon, and Staff Sgt. Merriweather was right up there at the front. Slowly, Soldiers started dropping off, one by one, but Staff Sgt. Merriweather kept going. At the end of that run, as his Soldiers came across the line, they were coughing, hot, sweating and beat down, but they looked at their platoon sergeant who started talking to them. And as he was talking, his Soldiers got a little straighter, and a little more proud. You could easily see the deep respect and the desire to improve that Staff Sgt. Merriweather imbued in his Soldiers. Most NCOs strive for one instance in the entirety of their career where they can get that feeling and see that respect from their Soldiers. For Staff Sgt. Merriweather, it's a daily, and sometimes hourly, occurrence."

The visiting veterans of the 7th Infantry Regiment Association made the day even more profound, allowing for Soldiers to meet with veterans who made the country what it is today.

"The reason we are here today is not only for the annual reunion of the 7th Infantry Regiment Association but also to give the Hugh Casey Award to Staff Sgt. Merriweather," said Gene Owen, Sergeant 1st Class (Ret.). "We have been to Fort Stewart as well as other posts for this reunion before, but this is always a very captivating and pleasant venue. Lieutenant Colonel Sierra has done a marvelous job getting things together for us and hosting our reunion. I am humbled to be a part of this ceremony. I can hardly get in the presence of these people without choking up."

The presentation of the Hugh Casey Award was made even more relevant as it is the Year of the NCO.

"Today we had the Hugh Casey Award presentation that the Regimental Association gives out every year," said 2/7 Inf. Regt. Command Sgt. Major Shawn Cook. "I think this epitomizes the Year of the NCO and gives great recognition for Staff Sgt. Merriweather, who is our greatest. This is something we wish we could do more often for the NCOs in our battalion. Staff Sergeant Merriweather's combat knowledge and ability, as well as the efforts during our reset, epitomize what our NCOs do on a regular basis. Soldiers will always follow in the footsteps of their NCOs, either good or bad."