McLawhorn Memorial Tournament begins April 1

Published 9:56 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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LASKER – The Sgt. Will McLawhorn Memorial Scholarship Baseball Tournament is now officially a teenager.

U.S. Army Sgt. Will McLawhorn

The 13th annual event is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, April 1-2, 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. He joined the military one year later.

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 Assembly Christian Academy, and Ridgecroft School.

Daily admission is $7 per person.

Opening day, Monday (April 1), a brief pre-game ceremony will be held at 2:45 p.m. featuring Krystyan Sauls, an Edenton native who spent 10 years serving her nation in the United States Marines. Playing the trumpet, Sauls will perform the National Anthem and then throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The tournament’s opening game pits Northeast vs. Bethel Assembly (3 p.m.) followed by Ahoskie Christian vs. Ridgecroft (5 p.m.).

Ahoskie Christian is the two-time defending champion of the McLawhorn Tournament.

Tuesday (April 2), 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, barbecue sandwiches, snacks, and soft drinks) will be offered for sale. Tournament t-shirts and hoodies will also be available for sale with the proceeds benefitting the scholarship fund.

Donations will be accepted to the Wounded Warriors Project in memory of Sgt. Will McLawhorn.

“It’s hard to believe this is our 13th year,” said Rev. Willie McLawhorn Sr., Will’s father. “We are so appreciative for the tremendous amount of support this event receives year after year. My family and I appreciate all that’s done to honor and remember Will.”

Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each will be awarded to several student-athletes participating in the tournament. Rev. McLawhorn noted that since the tournament’s inception, 40 scholarships totaling $22,000 have been awarded.

Rev. McLawhorn said his son was a proud American who loved his country.

“Life in the military afforded Will the opportunity to see the world, which allowed him to see just how blessed we are to live in a free and prosperous nation,” he stressed. “Will served in third world counties. “He saw how others lived on just the bare basics and that hit him hard, but he enjoyed what he did he was looking to make the Army his career.”

Will McLawhorn’s service was felt in other ways as well.

“He ministered to other soldiers, he loved to share his faith. That fact offered us comfort and peace that he knew the Lord and died doing what he loved,” Rev. McLawhorn said.

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.

Members of the McLawhorn family (from left) Rev. Willie McLawhorn, Sr., wife, Diane, and daughter Melanie, pose beside a bronze plaque dedicated to their late son and brother, Sgt. Will ‘Claw’ McLawhorn, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. File Photo

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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