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Laurel will honor native son on Sept. 11

Retired United States Army Sergeant Major Jeffrey Shera was in service to his country for his entire life after graduating from Laurel High School, first as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, then as a civilian employee for the U.S. Department of Defense. After his passing last year on September 11, Laurel willannuallyhonor him and other graduates of Laurel High School who have served or are currently serving in the military with "Sergeant Major Jeff Shera Day" on September 11.

By BRANDON TOWNSEND - btownsend@newsexaminer.com

LAUREL — Following a declaration from the Laurel Town Council, Laurel will annually honor a former late Special Forces soldier from the town with a holiday.

The council decided that Sept. 11 would be known as “Sergeant Major Jeff Shera Day” in honor of Laurel native Jeffrey Shera. After graduating from Laurel High School in 1977, Sheera spent his entire life in service to his country until he passed away battling cancer on Sept. 11, 2017.

After joining the military, Shera was a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly referred to as Green Berets, for over 26 years. He retired with the rank of sergeant major in 2003.

After retirement, Shera worked as a civilian employee with the Department of Defense at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He would travel to Washington, D.C., frequently to train the next generation of special operations soldiers.

Shera was also a member of the Laurel Masonic Lodge along with his cousin, U.S. Navy veteran Glenn Anthony of Cambridge City.

Anthony had known little about his cousin’s service before his passing last year. Shera was required to be secretive due to the sensitive nature of his military activity. Anthony soon discovered that his cousin had accomplished more than he could imagine.

In 1983, Shera had been declared the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year at Fort Bragg, N.C. He received the rare Special Forces SCUBA Badge, with his team breaking the world record for the deepest dive.

Shera was also given the Legion of Merit, the sixth highest military honor in the U.S. for his work as a civilian employee with the Defense Department. He was given the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award Medal and a conference room at MacDill Air Force Base has been named after him.

“He really was a quiet professional,” said Anthony. “I didn’t even know this until his funeral, but he was also in black ops.”

After learning of his cousin’s accomplishments, he sought to make Sept. 11 known in Laurel as “Sergeant Major Jeff Shera Day,” and received the support of many Laurel residents and businesses.

“Jeff was never one to brag about himself,” said G. Odell Calihan, Shera’s former teacher and track coach. “For what he accomplished, I think that qualifies him as much as anybody for recognition.”

On Monday, the Laurel Town Council voted to make the day of remembrance official. The day is intended to not only honor Shera, but to also honor anyone from Laurel High School who has gone into the military.

“Jeff was a team player,” said Anthony. “He wouldn’t approve of making ‘Jeff Shera Day’ just about himself.”

On Sept. 8, the Laurel Masonic Lodge will host a chicken dinner at Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center in honor of Shera. Graduates from Laurel High School who have served or are currently serving in the military can eat for free. For everyone else, meals will be $10.

The dinner will be paid for by local businesses such as the Laurel Hotel, Pizza Station, Long Branch Tavern, Marathon Gas Station and Pavey’s Gas Station.

On Sept. 11, those who participaate in remembrance of Shera and other military personnel who came from Laurel are asked to display a black ribbon in front of their house by tying it to their porch post, mailbox, or front door.

“I want this to uplift the town,” said Anthony. “People want to be part of something. This brings them together for a common cause.”

Anthony’s efforts to honor his cousin are not limited to a day of remembrance. He wants drivers entering Laurel via Indiana 121 to be greeted with a sign saying “Welcome to Laurel, hometown of Sergeant Major Jeff Shera, ‘A Quiet Professional.’”

Anthony says he has received the support not only of the Laurel Town Council, but of Sen. Jean Leising to have signs erected at the town limits of Laurel. He plans on reaching out to Gov. Eric Holcomb about the matter.

“Everybody liked Jeff,” said Anthony. “I don’t know anybody who didn’t like him. When they thought of him, they thought of him in a good way.”