Local military hero honored at ceremony Friday morning

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(Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – An American hero was honored Friday morning at a ceremony held at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Training Center. United States Marine Corps Sgt. Jacob Patrick Grey recently returned from Afghanistan after working tirelessly in the efforts to evacuate the remaining American citizens and allies in the weeks leading up to the country’s withdrawal. Friday, leaders throughout Cullman County gathered with Sgt. Grey to show appreciation for his tremendous service and sacrifice. 

Sgt. Grey was accompanied by his parents, Jeff and Jennifer Grey, his younger brother James and a host of other family members and friends. Among those in attendance were Roy Drinkard, Cullman’s oldest Marine, and many others who wanted to personally thank Sgt. Grey. 

As America watched anxiously as the evacuation of Afghanistan unfolded, Sgt. Grey was on the ground at Kabul Airport and was among the last flights out of the country. He explained, “We were at the East gate. We were also on a Quick Reaction Force to go anywhere that needed help. We bounced around to different gates but mostly we were at the East gate.” Grey departed Afghanistan in the middle of the night and was unclear about whether it was the 29th or 30th of August. 

As his parents watched the news from Cullman, Jeff Grey recalled, “He didn’t really tell us where he was or what he was involved in. We knew he was there, and I saw him on the news within the first couple of days. He just kind of passed by. Then it started unfolding and unfolding.” On Thursday August 27, a suicide bombing attack occurred at the Kabul Airport, killing 13 US. troops. 

Grey was on the scene of the suicide bombing attack. “That Thursday, it was like 6 hours before we got a text from him. It was over six hours before we realized that he was ok,” Jeff said. “I think he texted us on the 30th that they got out of there.” 

His parents left last Saturday for North Carolina to pick up their son and, while en route, they received a text that his flight home had been delayed. Originally expected to arrive on Sunday, Sgt. Grey finally arrived around midnight Tuesday morning. Jeff said, “He’s caught up on a lot of sleep. One of the first things he wants to do is go eat Mexican food and sit back and relax.” 

At Friday’s ceremony, Sheriff Matt Gentry, who also served his country in the United States Marine Corps, spoke of the need of “young men and women, like Sgt. Grey, to take on the roles of leadership to keep our community the way it is.” He then presented a wooden plaque with a beautiful inscription:

Sgt. Jacob Patrick Grey

On behalf of the citizens of Cullman County and the United States of America, thank you for your dedication and service to the United States Marine Corps. 

In recognition of your valiant efforts in the evacuation of Afghanistan in 2021

Once a Marine, Always a Marine.

Semper Fi

Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons spoke briefly before County Attorney Emily Johnston presented Sgt. Grey with a letter of appreciation that read in part, “Jacob attended Sacred Heart School and graduated from St. Bernard Preparatory School in 2011. He enlisted in October 2017; 1st Battalion 8th Marine Regiment. Jacob served in two deployments–Norway and Romania in 2019 and England, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2021. This brave Marine helped in the evacuation of 116,000 people from Kabul, Afghanistan.” 

Senator Garlan Gudger represented Cullman’s State delegation to present a proclamation passed by the Alabama State Senate and Governor Kay Ivey recognizing Sgt. Grey for his service. Cullman City Police Chief Kenny Culpepper presented Sgt. Grey with a personal challenge coin from Mayor Woody Jacobs. 

Sgt. Grey will also be recognized at the next Cullman City Council meeting before heading back to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. 

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com