By June Mathews
TRUSSVILLE — There are heroes among us, even though you may not always recognize them. Like regular people, they come in all shapes and sizes, often dressing like you and sometimes driving the same kind of car as yours. You pass them on the street and sit next to them in restaurants. They live in your neighborhood, go to the same movies you do and attend your church.
And one of them, like Kerry Gould for instance, may have sold you a cell phone.
In his everyday life, Gould serves customers as the general manager of the Verizon store in Trussville. But one weekend a month, he serves his country as a major in the Army National Guard.
“I’ve always liked to serve my country, and it’s just what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Gould. “My dad was a captain in the Coast Guard with 22 years of service, so it’s kind of in our blood.”
The 45-year-old New Orleans native enlisted in the National Guard in 1986 and has served continuously ever since. His specialty is emergency preparedness, and he’s second in command for a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear) unit out of Gadsden.
Gould had been with Verizon only four months when he learned he’d be deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. So he was naturally concerned about how his new employer would react. His worries, however, were for naught. Not only did Verizon take care of his family while he was gone, he still had a job when he returned home 18 months later.
“I didn’t expect it, but they understood,” he said.
The company also supports his standing commitment to the Guard for one weekend a month, as well as the additional time he spends each year in training.
“Being off on Saturdays is a big deal in retail, but they allow me to do that,” he said. “They really go out of their way to make sure their reservists get the time to do what they need to do. It’s the best company I’ve ever been with in that regard.”
A member of the Verizon team since 2006, Gould became manager of the Trussville store earlier this year. He, his wife and their three kids live in Shelby County.
While he doesn’t believe the average non-military individual disrespects reservists, Gould doubts that few people outside of the Guard totally understand the extent of training and dedication involved. Over the years, he’s spent countless hours, inside and outside of classrooms, learning how to effectively respond in the event of a disaster. For many of those hours, he receives no extra pay.
“Most people don’t see that,” he said, “and they don’t realize that the average soldier makes a minimum commitment of 38 days a year. That’s over an entire month you can’t hang out with your family or do anything with your kids.”
In response to how some of the more cynical types view reservists, Gould said, “We don’t just march around and clean our guns.”
In addition to his 18-month tour of duty in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Gould served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and has participated in two missions related to natural disasters. He was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan.