Jerry Mertz voluntarily joined the Navy Air Force Reserve in 1957 as a 17-years-old St. Paul Central High School junior. After a three-month boot camp at World-Chamberlain Field, now Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), the following summer, Jerry embarked on a six-year commitment to serving his country. “I didn’t want to be drafted and have to carry a rifle,” he explains. “I wanted to do something that was meaningful to me.” Jerry found that meaning as a military trained electrician based in Maine and Florida, performing the necessary wiring for Navy airplanes to function at their best.
In Jerry’s retirement, he also voluntarily joined Our Lady of Peace as an evening dinner server on Friday nights. His kitchen training was less intense than Navy boot camp, but as an OLP volunteer, his spirit for doing something meaningful remains strong. “I bring patients their food and give them fresh water, and I clean up the kitchen,” he says. “I’ve had quite a bit of experience with people dying, and I know it’s inevitable. And I like to know I’m helping to take the load off the staff.”
When Jerry enrolled in the Veteran’s Administration (VA) 10 years ago, he felt he was unworthy of military benefits because he served in peace time between the Korean War and Vietnam War. He told them he was apprehensive to benefit from veteran services because he had no heroic feats on his record, just steady support, but Jerry soon learned the value of that support. “The man I was meeting with told me, ‘Don’t ever think that. Others were drafted, but you volunteered and made sure everything was ready to go on Navy planes at the snap of a finger, if needed,’ and that made me feel better.”
Like every Veteran’s Day, a Navy hat will be on Jerry’s head in commemoration of those who served. And the night before, he will be once again viewed as a hero to staff and patients at
Our Lady of Peace who are grateful for his service to them. This is certainly something worth acknowledging.
With a humble heart, Jerry says, “It was an honor to serve my country, and it’s an honor to serve alongside the caregivers at Our Lady of Peace. It’s nice to hang around with good people. The staff is helpful, friendly, and attentive to their patients. Everyone pays attention to people in need. I’m going to keep volunteering for as long as I’m physically able to do it.”
Jerry Mertz, we salute you for your service to country and Our Lady of Peace.