Williams ready for the next phase of his life of service | News | The Press and Standard

by | May 12, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: May 12, 2016 at 5:44 pm

A retirement celebration for Roger ‘Gunner’ Williams is planned for Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Colleton County High School gym. By GEORGE SALSBERRY gsalsberry@lowcountry.com “Gunner” is moving on. Roger “Gunner” Williams will retire at the end of June, bringing to a close a 22-year career with NJROTC. He was hired as a Naval Science instructor at Walterboro High School in October of 1994 and relocated with the NJROTC unit when Colleton County High School came into being. “I’ve absolutely enjoyed it,” Williams said. “It has been a great journey, extremely rewarding, and I am going to miss it. I am going to miss the interaction with the kids,” Williams said. As a member of the NJROTC staff, he said, “You see them come in at a young age, a freshman.  Through the course of four years, you watch them move from adolescent to young adult. “The relationship you have built, the bond that you have established over that course of time, continues once they move on into the community, into the world,” he added. “They come back and share their experiences with staff and cadets.” The Naval Science curriculum, he said, is varied, covering citizenship, leadership, history, weather, team skills, fellowship, character development, physical fitness and a number of other important elements. “You are developing an individual.” A very small percentage of the cadets who complete the four-year NJROTC program go into military, Williams says. “That is not the purpose of it — the biggest misconception is that it is a recruiting tool for the military,” Williams said. “It is absolutely not.” Back in 1994, Williams was in the process of closing out a 22-year career in the United States Marines Corps. He retired in January of 1995 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer-3, and was pondering the next stage of his life. Williams was considering a transition into education and already in the process of applying for a military program that assists in making that change. Then the call came from Commander Charles Armentrout, head of the Walterboro High School NJROTC program. “Commander Armentrout was my first boss. I worked with him for 18 years. He brought me on board, and he gave me the nickname Gunner. It stuck.” “I was not a true gunner,” Williams said. In the Marine Corps, “a true gunner was a weapons specialist,” he said. During his time in the Marine Corps, Williams said, “I’ve traveled around the world, been in all types of environments, met all types of people, done a lot of great things.” Williams said he had been pondering joining the Marine Corps since he was in elementary school. He enlisted after graduating from Walterboro High School in the spring of 1972. “I was excited about it — it was what I wanted to do.” Williams said he and his recruiter had an agreement: Williams wanted to spend the summer at home and enter boot camp in the fall. “I met my drill instructors on Labor Day.” By December of 1972, Williams was finished with his recruit training at MCRD Parris Island. “I was an infantryman,” Williams said. “My attitude at that time was I wanted to be on the ground. I wanted to be in the fight.” It was the Vietnam War era. “In the evenings, Dad would  allow us to watch the evening news, Walter Cronkite,” he said. During Cronkite’s nightly news program on CBS, the newsman would give the casualty report from the Vietnam War. Williams noticed that the Marine Corps numbers were a lot less, and “I thought that meant something.” “I saw the uniform, saw how they marched, saw their character. I was drawn to that,” he explained. As he advanced through the ranks, he began to gravitate towards education as a career after the service. He found that he enjoyed the educational aspects of being a drill instructor. While in the military, he participated in a program that allowed service personnel to work on a degree and attend college after attaining 60 credit hours. It took him six years to amass those college credits while serving. Then it was off to the University of South Carolina, where he completed the course work, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. The college courses fed his desire for a career in education. Shortly after Williams began teaching, he decided to advance his education again; Wheelock College in Boston was offering a graduate program in Beaufort. He signed up and obtained a master of science degree in elementary education. One of his professors, who taught English literature, introduced her students to children’s literature to foster a love for reading. Williams took her comments to heart, writing “Me N Me,” a children’s book based on his grandson Brian Jr. While doing his student teaching at Lady’s Island, a fourth grader captured Williams’ attention. She was staying with her grandmother and attending a new school while her mother and father were stationed overseas. It led him to write, “Operation Desert Mail.” President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” is another elementary school memory that Williams has used as a touchstone in his life. Williams was in third grade when Kennedy was assassinated. When he first heard the famous quote, Williams said, he thought of “all these Americans being drafted, fighting in Vietnam War, fighting to protect us.” Years later, when his military career was over, Williams suggests that quote guided him again. “I was coming back to my community,” Williams said. In his mind, he slightly altered the words, but not the meaning. He thought “Don’t ask what my community can do for me, ask what I can do for my community.” The significance of that Kennedy quote, he said, will guide him through the next stage of his life. “It will continue in some civic capacity. I just have to figure out my niche.” “I’ll become a food soldier for some civic organizations,” Williams said. “But first, I’ll take about six months off to figure it all out.” Now that he is leaving the time intensive duties with the NJROTC, Williams said, he will have more time for family. In the course of his military service, he married a local girl, the former Janice Brown. “We went to high school together. She is from the Hendersonville community. I grew up in the Roadside community.” He said he realizes that “being a military wife has not been easy.bMy wife has been very patient and supportive — now I’m going to focus more on family.” The couple has two sons, Roger Jr. and Brian. Both are majors in the U.S. Army. Roger Jr. is stationed in Fort Knox in Kentucky; Brian at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. “I’m proud of all of them,” he said. His sons’ decision to join the U.S. Army instead of the Marine Corps is not the only way they parted ways with dad’s legacy. While he graduated from the University of South Carolina, they both chose Clemson for their degrees. “They gang up on dad during football season,” Williams said. “Last year was difficult.”

comments » 11

  1. Comment by Armando Martinez

    May 12, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Gunner Williams is a true example of a modern day hero. He served his country with distinction and gave back to the community by developing mature, well-rounded adults. As a model of professionalism, he instilled many great characteristics in the students in which he taught, guided, and mentored. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Gunner, LCDR Armentrout, and Senior Chief Spofford. Gunner is the last of a legacy of three gentlemen who gave the program, but more importantly the students, an opportunity to excel. Thank you, Gunner! Semper Fi!

  2. Comment by Katrina Kitchen

    May 12, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I would have to say that this man was one of the reasons that I stuck with NJROTC when I was a student. He taught you morals,discipline, honesty and to never give up. He was always fair to all and he was also a great instructor. I had to pleasure of seeing him last year and getting to speak to him and both Commander Armentrout. I was glad to let them know that they inspired and what they tried to teach did stick with me. What we did not understand then, we definitely learned as we moved on in life. Great men, all of them Lt. Cmdr. Armentrout, Gunner and Senior Chief made that program what it was and now with the last great taking a bow, those kids have NO idea what they are losing.

    Semper Fi Gunner and all the best in life!! May it be nothing but adventure from here!!!

  3. Comment by patricia lyons

    May 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Gunner will always be my favorite instructor. He always was inspiring.

  4. Comment by Laura

    May 12, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    All past cadets are invited to Gunner’s Ceremony which will be held Saturday May 14, 2016 (this Saturday) at 4pm, Colleton County High School Gym. Spread the word. If Current military please wear your uniform for Gunner!!
    Hope to see everyone Saturday evening.

  5. Comment by Patience Teal

    May 12, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    I knew of Gunner and Comander when I went to Walterboro High. Now both of my children are in the NJROTC program and I have gotten to know him and Chief a lot better. Both of them have been amazing examples to my children. Gunner has taught them what it is to have respect and be respected. I really hate to see him go, but I understand why. Family is everything and he has given so much to our country, community, and our children. You will be greatly missed. With much love from The Teal/Bennett Family.

  6. Comment by SgtMaj Gary Smith

    May 12, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Gunner thank you for dedicated service to our most prized possessions our youth who will lead this great nation in the future. Your example is a great one to emulate….you have truly been Always faithful….Semper Fi.

  7. Comment by Karen Lanier Summers

    May 13, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Gunner – I hope you see these comments! 🙂 your influence in the lives of so many of us went on well beyond the years of high school. You offered patient, respectful, consistent support that was so necessary for our growth. It wasn’t always nice to step into the bridge, but it sure made an impact. Gunner usually was the one who said the least but who’s words stuck the most! I am thankful for my NJROTC years…..they truly were some of my best childhood memories. Thank you Commander, Sr Chief & Gunner! You guys have given back to our community more than you will ever realize. It wasn’t “just a job” and it showed! I have your books and we read both of them frequently. Thanks for the memories and best of luck in your future endeavors! Enjoy!!

  8. Comment by Amber Evans

    May 13, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Gunner is, and will always remain, one of the greatest teachers I have ever known. I was in CCHS’s. NJROTC program all four years of highschool, and his steadfast presence gave me the structure and support I needed to get through what turned into a difficult patch of my life. He was rock-steady and unshakable.

    As a cadet progresses through the program, the size of their classes decreases, as thr freshmen they started with sometimes leave the unit for one reason or another. During the first semester of my fourth year, because of a scheduling hiccup I was seperated from the other members of my senior class, and so took my classes as a sort of independent study under Gunner’s tutelage. It was… remarkable, a chance for us to really plumb each other’s minds, and we each saw a side of the other that had usually been hidden before. He got to see me (usually reserved and observant in class and in life) open up in an environment where being deeply interested in the subject matter was encouraged (that semester we covered astronomy and weather science… two of my personal favorites!) And I got to see the pride he takes in each of his young charges, the loyalty he shows to those under his care, and the fierce joy which being a shaping force in our lives gave him.

    He became like a father to me – and indeed, to many of the cadets. He could always be counted on to be fair yet compassionate, and to maintain his honor at any cost. He is a truly great man, and I am sure I speak for many cadets when ai say that my life is so much greater because of his part in it. There are some people who never fade from your mind, some stars that blaze brightly even across the greatest distances. Gunner, T’Kahr, you are one of those stars – hail to you, my teacher, my dear friend, and good luck in this new chapter of life.

  9. Comment by Chris Generette

    May 13, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Thank you Sir for all you have done for us over the years, you’re a true leader and inspiration. You never gave up on us and always pushed us to be the best person possible. Semper Fi

  10. Comment by Seth Capers C/O 06

    May 17, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I appreciate all that Gunner has done for me. He was and is a great inspiration in the community. He showed us how to carry ourselves with dignity, respect, and even how to be good leaders. He provided needed advice on even the simplest matters, but that advice sticks with me even now as a young man. I appreciate all of the laughs and fun along with the expectation of excellence that I gained as I was a cadet in the CCHS NJROTC. Job well done sir. Semper Fi

  11. Comment by Sherika Dyer (Murray)

    May 22, 2016 at 9:23 am

    I was surprised to run across this article. I joined JROTC in 1995, my first year of high school. I highly credit not only Gunner, but the staff for making my transition in the Air Force an easy one with teaching me discipline, respect and military bearing. His service to his country and community has not gone unnoticed. He encouraged many young kids. Thanks for your 40+ years of service!

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