‘Soldier Hero’ honored at game
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
Honoring heroes is nothing new for Texas A&M. During the winter break that tradition was continued at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as Capt. Mark Herman, a business administration graduate student, was recognized as a "Soldier Hero."
The All-American Bowl is an annual football game featuring the best high school athletes in the country, pitting East against West.
Seventy-seven soldiers were honored as "Soldier Heroes." They had to qualify to apply or be nominated. The qualifications included an award for valor — a Medal of Honor, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, etc. — or a Purple Heart. Herman, a Bronze Star recipient, said he applied after he was qualified to do so.
"The distinction for valor has to be earned in combat, for certain combat actions," Herman said. "I have a Bronze Star Medal and an Army Commendation Medal for Valor, it's a lower award but they added the ‘for valor' for a mission I flew in Iraq."
Herman served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has been a student at A&M since 2011. As a "Soldier Hero," Herman had the opportunity to act as a mentor to Erik Magnuson, an offensive tackle from Carlsbad, Calif. Herman said his experience talking with a young athlete of potential gave them both the opportunity to learn from each other.
"I didn't know how intense the high school football-recruiting world was. He met with every major coach on the west coast and had offers from every school," Herman said. "His questions were more ‘what was it like to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, what's it like to fly a helicopter', I told him cool stories, so it went both ways."
As a mentor, Herman spent time with Magnuson each day leading up to the game. They did different things together like an eating competition, a formal awards dinner and even a riverboat cruise on the San Antonio River Walk.
Herman had a successful career during his active duty, including flying Black Hawk helicopters, and his last post gave him the opportunity to command 248 soldiers. Karen Hughes, 1st Sgt., said that Herman had the tough task of changing positions, but was successful, and they worked well together.
"He's an aviator so he was in a position where his MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] did not accommodate the unit. As a pilot, he had to learn to become a logistician. He adapted very well," Hughes said. "Our mission was to support the aviators. We fed them, provided maintenance, and provided medical. We were making sure that the battle could go on. We deployed with 248 soldiers, we didn't lose any soldiers, we had a high level of responsibility."
Now a student in the reserves, Herman spends his time between classes and working at the Military Sciences Building, assisting the Army Reserved Officer Training Corps. The AROTC Battalion Training Officer, Maj. Keith Roberts, said Herman has been a welcomed addition.
"He's a big help. He comes in as part of his drill, probably once a week, so I know that he leaves class, gets changed into uniform and does a good job juggling his school schedule with work. Once he's here, he's fully Army and not as a student, which is probably challenging," Roberts said. "Mark does a good job of diving right in when he gets here."
A graduate of West Point, Herman said the decision to come to A&M was based in part to its respect of traditions.
"I had my choice of where to go to school," Herman said. "We share a lot of the same values, like the honor code that all students abide by. I don't think all schools understand that."
Herman said he attributes his current successes to the leadership opportunities the Army has provided, and believes the Army can do the same for others.
"As an officer, it's your job to lead, to be in charge. So it's really been a hands-on experience to lead and manage people. Employers are looking for experience that you can't learn in the classroom," Herman said. "It's a serious commitment, but my perspective is that deployment is where the real Army shines. It's a great experience for any man or woman."