Fifteen men and women who serve in the U.S. armed services, including a Fort Mill Army National Guardsman, are featured on the Charlotte Knights’ first military heroes card set.
The set was given away to hundreds of people who attended a recent Knights game in uptown Charlotte. The Knights, the Chicago White Sox AAA affiliate, played its home games in Fort Mill before the team’s new stadium opened last year.
In June, the team launched a search for servicemen and women to be featured on the cards. Friends and family of Fort Mill resident Edward Lee Robertson Jr. answered the call.
Robertson joined the Army National Guard after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He enlisted the next year and in 2007 was sent to Afghanistan for his first tour of duty. He was attached to the 1st and 118th Infantry Mortar Team and served as a Humvee gunner attacking Taliban facilities. He came home, only to return just a few years later with the 1222nd Engineers.
During Robertson’s second tour in Afghanistan in 2009-2010, he worked disabling IEDs so other troops could pass through routes safely. Now, as a staff sergeant, Robertson helps train other members of his unit in Fort Mill.
Lisa Robertson, his wife, worked with Fort Mill residents Janet and John Thoma to nominate Robertson for the Knights honor. They didn’t tell him about their nomination until they learned he had been selected. It was a big surprise that led to Robertson being honored on the field, with 14 others, before the Aug. 9 Knights game.
“It’s really good to know that people actually do care,” Robertson said.
The Robertson and Thoma families attend church together at Carolinas Cornerstone Church in Fort Mill. There, Robertson has started a men’s ministry. Janet Thoma said it helps him cope with memories of fighting overseas that are often triggered during his ongoing training.
“They blow all this stuff up and when he comes back he has some of that feeling back again. It brings back all of those memories. Instead of brooding about it, he started a camouflage ministry at our church, which is a ministry to men who like to hunt and fish,” she said.
Like other service members, Robertson said he doesn’t serve for glory or fame.
“We do it not only for ourselves but for our families, for our homes, we do it for our kids,” he said.
Nearly three dozen members of Robertson’s church attended the game to see him honored. The Robertsons, their two boys and the other 14 honorees were allowed to visit the Knights’ dugout and then walked onto the field to the cheers of the crowd.
“It’s good to know that there are a lot of people out there that understand and appreciate it, because we sacrifice so much for them,” Robertson said.
Perhaps the game brought back some happy memories from when Robertson was young – he was once a bat boy for the team that honored him on its inaugural Military Heroes card set.
And as much as Janet Thoma, who Robertson calls “Mama J,” said she appreciated the Knights’ gesture, she hopes to see more appreciation in general for U.S. service members.
“I am free and able to live my life because young men like (Robertson) do what they do,” she said.