FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WBTV) - Kenneth “Rock” Merritt, a beloved and decorated veteran who served in both World War II and the Vietnam War, has died at the age of 97 at his home in North Carolina.
According to The Fayetteville Observer, Merritt was “something of a living legend” in the Fort Bragg community. He served 35 years in the Army.
Merritt was a World War II paratrooper with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, fought in Vietnam, jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
He was the only man to ever serve two tours as the First Command Sergeant Major of the 18th Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg posted a heartfelt message about Merrit on Facebook.
“We certainly know Rock did his duty here on Earth, not only in WWII and Vietnam, but also in his service to our Soldiers on Fort Bragg. For many, his investment in our Soldiers will serve as his legacy. Every change-of-command, every All American Week, every big event, Rock was there. He met every Paratrooper, he shook every Soldier’s hand. He will be deeply missed,” the post read.
According to Fort Benning records, Merritt earned a long list of titles, accomplishment, awards and decorations as referenced below:
- He was nominated for the position of Sergeant Major of the United States Army in 1963, 1970 and 1973.
- He completed 200 parachute jumps and in 1958 was awarded a “Gold” Century Parachute Badge by the Original Airborne Association.
- Silver Star Medal
- Legion of Merit Medal
- Bronze Star Medal with two oak/leaf clusters
- Meritorious Service Medal with two clusters,
- Army Commendation Medal with three clusters
- Combat Infantry Badge
- Presidential Unit Citation
- Masters Parachutists Badge with two combat jump stars.
- National Defense Medal
- European Theater of Operations Medal with Invasion Arrowhead and four battle stars
- European Victory Medal, and the Occupation Medal with Germany Bar.
- French Fourragere with Palm
- Belgium Fourragere
- Orange Lanyard of the Royal Netherlands Army.
- In 1973, he was selected as one of the five Command Sergeant Majors in the Army allowed to serve five years beyond the mandatory 30 years service prescribed by Army Regulations.
- He served five terms as President of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association.
- On October 19, 2004, at Camp Blanding, Florida. he officiated at the formal retirement of the Association.
- He also served three terms as Vice President of the Association, and many years as Association Parliamentarian.