Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Sgt. 1st Class Max McLeod, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), was officially inducted as the newest member of the Lamp Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club in a ceremony Nov. 19 in DePuy Auditorium.

Audie Murphy is the most decorated soldier in American history, earning every medal of valor given by America as well as one Belgian medal and three French medals. He was discharged from the Army on Sept. 21, 1945, and moved to Hollywood where he became a well-known author, actor, producer, songwriter and poet. He was killed in a plane crash May 28, 1971, at the age of 46.

Over the past year, SAMC members have donated more than 13,000 volunteer hours to the Meals on Wheels program; projects such as the Veterans Affairs Trail clean-up, the Adopt-a-Highway clean-up, the Fort Leavenworth Thrift Store clean-up, and the Drunk Driving Prevention Program; and providing the color guard at 15 different events around the installation and in the Leavenworth community, said SAMC President Staff Sgt. Jacob Vaughan, executive assistant to the Combined Arms Center command sergeant major.

“Sergeant First Class McLeod has shown both commitment to the NCO Corps and our community. He has volunteered on numerous occasions to include several of the aforementioned programs,” Vaughan said. “He is truly a selfless NCO who is committed to the welfare of our soldiers and our community. We are proud to induct him and call him and all Audie Murphy members, who exemplify the Army values, members of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp Chapter. Each of them truly leads from the front.”

As part of his induction, McLeod was presented with a certificate of achievement, a framed biography of Audie Murphy, a membership card and the SAMC medallion featuring the club crest designed by original SAMC organizer and professional illustrator Don Moore, to certify his membership as a lifelong member.

Sgt. Maj. Mark Haliburton, USDB operations sergeant major, who served as the guest speaker, said soldiers always ask three questions — “Are you committed? Can I trust you? Do you care about me?”

“You can only answer those questions with actions, the actions I like to call the triple A insurance policy. The actions that answer those questions are you must be available, you must be accessible, you must be approachable,” Haliburton said. “Sergeant First Class McLeod, there are two things that you may have more than anyone on this installation right now and that’s character and moral courage.

“They are just words but they are everything we must be and you will be. It is what the nation needs from you,” he said. “It is your character that causes you to lead by example and your moral courage to do the right thing even when you think no one is watching. This is the guiding light and the key for the NCO Corps moving forward every day.”

Haliburton said it is now McLeod’s job to keep the “backbone of the Army” standing upright, explaining the history of the saying, which derives from Rudyard Kipling’s 1895 poem, “The ‘Eathen.”

“The spine consists of 33 vertebra that are critical to the entire body functioning and walking upright. All NCOs make up the 33 vertebrae critical to the functioning of the Army. However, with bones, density levels vary. Some bones are stronger than others and some NCOs are stronger than others. You, our newest inductee, are the strength our backbone needs to prevent scoliosis or toxic leadership,” Haliburton said.

“Just as a person with a weak back or some spinal condition, they are limited physically. Their posture causes them to slump over, which can lead to a lack of confidence. However, a person with a strong back walks upright, with the body erect, hips level, chest lifted in an arch and shoulders square. They exude an enormous amount of confidence, which is contagious. Those around them feed off this confidence and it inspires them.”

Haliburton said McLeod should take the medallion he received as a symbol.

“The medallion is a symbol of your achievement and your soldiers’ accomplishments. Without them, you would be nothing,” he said. “Let this not be an award for successfully meeting the requirements of a board, but a symbol of the process, incredible leader strength and leaders who truly embody the spirit of commitment of one of the greatest heroes, Sergeant Audie Leon Murphy. You lead from the front. This we’ll defend. Victory starts here.”