McLawhorn Memorial Tournament opens Monday

Published 9:14 am Friday, April 7, 2023

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LASKER – The 12th annual Sgt. Will McLawhorn Memorial Scholarship Tournament is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, April 10-11 here at Northeast Academy.

The tournament honors the late Sgt. Will McLawhorn, a Northeast Academy graduate who was killed in action in 2010 while serving in the U.S. Army stationed in Afghanistan. McLawhorn played baseball and basketball at Northeast, graduating in 2005.

This year’s tournament – from where scholarships will be awarded to deserving players – features four local private school teams. In addition to the host school, Northeast Academy, the tournament welcomes Ahoskie Christian School, Bethel Christian, and Ridgecroft School.

Admission is $6 per person.

Opening day, Monday (April 10), a brief pre-game ceremony will be held. The first game pits Northeast vs. Ahoskie Christian (3 p.m.) followed by Bethel Christian vs. Ridgecroft (5 p.m.).

Tuesday (April 11), Monday’s losing teams will face off in the consolation game at 3 p.m. Monday’s winners will meet at 5 p.m. for the tournament championship.

Concessions (hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, snacks, and soft drinks) will be sold. Tournament t-shirts and hoodies will also be available for sale with the proceeds benefitting the scholarship fund.

Additionally there will be a 50/50 raffle each day. Proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project in memory of Sgt. Will McLawhorn.

“For all these years, we’ve experienced so much caring and love through this tournament,” stated Rev. Willie McLawhorn Sr., Will’s father who also serves as the tournament’s director. “Speaking for my family, we really appreciate all that’s been done and continues to be done to honor and remember Will.”

Will McLawhorn Jr., a native of Columbus County, moved with his family to Conway in 1998. There, his love of basketball and baseball continued, playing both sports on the junior varsity and varsity level. He was selected to the All-Roanoke-Chowan Baseball Team his senior year.

McLawhorn also enjoyed hunting and killed an 8-point buck with his first shot. As a child, Will had two careers in mind, becoming a professional baseball player or becoming a professional soldier.

In 2006, McLawhorn enlisted in the U.S. Army. Upon graduation from basic training, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division where he became a part of the Screaming Eagle family.

Prior to deployment to Iraq in 2007, he graduated from Air Assault School, earning his Air Assault Wings. He served 15 months in Iraq and reenlisted for five years while there. During the next months he earned his Airborne Jump Wings as well as additional training for becoming an NCO. In June of 2010 he deployed with his unit to Afghanistan. He grew to love his country and wanted to protect her…even if it meant giving his life. He loved his band of brothers who affectionately called him “Claw.”

Two of his Army comrades recall the impact that McLawhorn had on their lives.

“There was no one I’d rather follow into a fight,” said Brandon Davis. “I was always a bit intimidated by Claw, but as soon as I got back from Kaf he walked right up to me and gave me a hug. It was pretty awesome. Thank God that such men have lived.”

“Claw was a leader; he wasn’t a boss,” stated Erik Jorgenson. “Often when I think back and remember Claw, I remember how encouraging, positive, and intelligent he was. They were all things I really admired about him, and honestly I learned the most about being a better person from him.”

According to his platoon leader, then Lt. Cory Kastl, Will would often take the point while going on patrol because he was good at it. He would often trade places and take the point for soldiers who were married so that they didn’t have to take that chance. Will also refused to take his mid-deployment leave until all the others in his unit had opportunity to take theirs. He was killed before he got that leave.

For his actions on his last mission prior to his death, McLawhorn was awarded the Army Achievement Medal. The certificate of award states: “Cpl. McLawhorn performed with distinction during Operation Lion Strike. Throughout the ten day operation, Cpl. McLawhorn displayed tremendous leadership and poise under multiple small arms fire engagements with enemy forces. Cpl. McLawhorn was an integral part of the success of his Platoon, and his actions were extraordinary in a dangerous and demanding combat environment.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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