By: John Cuddy – Aug. 2022
Lawrence Massachusetts Director,Veterans’ Services, Sargent First Class Jaime L. Melendez Jr. US Army-Retired, was born in Lawrence Massachusetts. He attended the local Lawrence Public schools and finished high school at his parent’s home on the island of Puerto Rico. He has an associate degree from Central Texas University.
Jaime served two years with the US Army National Guard in Puerto Rico prior to entering active duty from Massachusetts on November 9, 1988.
He retired from the Army on August 1, 2011, with a total of twenty-five years of service. Meeting with him and his staff, they quickly shifted the focus from Sargent First Class Jamie Melendez’s lengthy service in the US Army, to an event, being put on by the Merrimack Valley Community Service Corps, spearheaded by Director Guy Terry Kelley, and coming up on Friday August 19th at 6pm at the Lawrence Veterans Stadium honoring US Marine Sargent Johanny Rosario Pichardo who died at Kabul Airport.
“Lawrence, MA native, Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo enlisted in the US Marine Corp and served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade; Pichardo was assigned to assist in the Afghanistan evacuation efforts.
Immediately upon arriving in Kabul, Sgt. Rosario-Pichardo volunteered to work a security assignment that only women could do in Afghanistan – screen the women and children attempting to flee the country. Pichardo lost her life assisting two Afghan women who were being trampled by the pack of people outside the airport gates, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt.
Sgt. Rosario Pichardo, twenty-five, was killed, along with twelve other American service members, and 169 Afghan civilians in the initial blast and the gunfire that followed. Pichardo’s commanding officer, Capt. Pascal DeMeo, remembers Pichardo’s final words before she attempted to help the women on the ground- “They need me, sir.”
It is estimated that her actions in addition to the actions of the other servicewomen working screening in the evacuation saved over 124,000 lives in America’s largest airlift operation ever”.
(From the Foundation for Women Warriors)
While serving in the National Guard and Regular Army, Jamie learned that the keys to leadership was instilling “purpose, direction, and motivation,” in the young men and women serving in the US Army. Jamie said this was easy to do with elite troops such as paratroopers and Rangers, but much harder with the average soldier. He credits the senior noncommissioned officers he served under, with developing him into the leader he is today.
While defending our Nation around the globe, he served with the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 27th Airborne Engineer Brigade, United States Medical Command, United States Southern Command and the 101st Airborne Division.
He has served our country in combat and on peace time keeping missions in Panama, Israel, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia, Kuwait, Iraq and throughout Central and South America.
During his US Army service, Jamie Melendez earned numerous awards, the Combat Medical Badge, the Parachute Combat Jump Badge with a Bronze Service Star, a Purple Heart, Four Army Commendation Medals, Eight Army Achievement Medals, Joint Meritorious Award, Meritorious Unit Award, Army Superior Unit Award, Eight Good Conduct Medals, Three National Defense Service Medals, Southwest Asia Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Two Armed Forces Service Medals, Four Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals with an Arrowhead Device, Two NATO Service Medals, Multinational Force and Observer Medal, Two United Nations Medals, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), US Army Driver and Mechanics Badge, Bronze German Armed Forces Parachute Badge, Bronze German Marksmanship Badge, Drill Sergeant Identification Badge, and the US Army Expert Field Medical Badge.
Jaime is still serving our Nation and our Nation’s Veterans as the current Director of Veterans’ Services for the City of Lawrence and has been at that position since October 11, 2011. He served as the President of the Massachusetts Veterans Service Officers Association from 2019 thru 2021. I went into his office with muffins and tea, expecting to hear about his military service, and instead we talked about serving the Veterans of the Merrimack Valley. First Sargent Jamie Melendez, US Army-retired, is truly a “Hero in Our Midst.”
The Dracut American Legion asks all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 25 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War, Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com ◊