A perfect patriot and a noble friend.
8 November 1959-7 November 2003
He stood, a soldier, to the last right end, A perfect patriot and a noble friend,
-- Ben Jonson
Few would have guessed in 1977, when she enlisted in the Army, that Sharon T. Swartworth would so dramatically change the Army and so profoundly improve the lives of her fellow Soldiers. But those fooled by her demure physical stature (five feet, two inches), her girlish grin, or her easy laugh would be surprised by the toughness and tenacity that sprung from Sharon's giant heart. From her heart flowed intense love and dedication to three things. First, she loved her family, especially her beloved son, Billy. Second, she loved her country with an intensity that inspired her to serve her Nation for 26 years. Finally, she loved those around her fully and genuinely a degree of caring that marked her as a friend, in the truest and noblest sense of that word, to her fellow Soldiers. Rarely do we find people who love so fully, and so well, their fellow man. Too often, these patriots are sacrificed to the cause of freedom. Sharon is no longer among us physically, but her spirit and example live on and will inspire her family and friends to live as she did--as a perfect patriot and a noble friend.
A PERFECT PATRIOT
Life springs from death and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations ...
-- Patrick Henry Pearse
Webster's Dictionary defines a patriot as "one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests." Many claim the title, but few live up to the lofty aspirations of these words. The life of a patriot is first one of professionalism--the Nation needs those who serve her to be competent and dedicated. Second, the life of a patriot is one of vision. The patriot must see the organization through which they serve the Nation not how it is, but rather how it could be. Third, the life of a patriot is one of sacrifice and service--selflessly serving the Nation and fellow Soldiers. No one lived the life of a perfect patriot better than Sharon Swartworth.
From the day her father signed her enlistment papers in 1977 so she could enlist at the age of seventeen, Sharon's professionalism and dedication was apparent. She began her career as a signal Soldier, serving at Fort Bragg and in Korea. By 1981, Sharon recognized her love for the legal field and became a legal specialist. Her rise through the ranks was nothing short of meteoric. As a legal specialist and court reporter, she was promoted through the ranks to Sergeant First Class in a mere four years. She went from a student in the court reporting school in 1982, to an instructor by 1984. Her rise through the enlisted ranks culminated in her appointment as a legal administrator in 1985. Serving as a legal administrator, she rose through the warrant officer ranks to become the Warrant Officer of the Judge Advocate General's Corps in 1999. She ascended the ranks from Warrant Officer One to Chief Warrant Officer Five in only fourteen years--a monumental achievement. There can be no doubt that Sharon Swartworth dazzled everyone she worked with and was a consummate professional in every aspect of her duties.
Individual achievement, however, is only one measure of professionalism and dedication. What people recognized in Sharon was her ability to develop a vision for an organization and, more importantly, to implement that vision through persistence, toughness, and tenacity. Nowhere was Sharon's vision more evident than in her culminating assignment as Warrant Officer of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. Using her remarkable personality and people skills, Sharon linked the warrant officers of our Corps together with the warrant officers of many branches. She helped coordinate a proponent workshop so that the warrant officers across the Army could begin speaking with one voice. The first workshop resulted in a proposed charter for the Warrant Officer Leader Development Council, changing the executive members to the proponent warrant officers. Without Sharon's leadership, these changes have slowed, but her vision and drive were unmistakable and these changes are being carried out by others.
Within the Judge Advocate General's Corps, she was a strong proponent of the "Foundation of Four" and the Legal Administrator's role on that team. She helped establish warrant officers as leaders and managers, not just computer technicians. Without degrading technology services so critical to judge advocate operations, Sharon encouraged, cajoled, and trained warrant officers to assume their proper responsibilities administering Offices of the Staff Judge Advocate, while serving as a mentor to both Soldiers and new attorneys and as a bridge between the officers and the enlisted personnel. She accomplished this by establishing a proper training foundation in a greatly improved Warrant Officer Basic Course at the Judge Advocate General's School; promoting cohesiveness among legal administrators through conferences and special events; and creating pride in the unique and challenging role that warrant officers play in the Army generally, and in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in particular.
Sharon's professionalism touched many and all remembrances of her are glowing:
She was the consummate professional, competent and confident, always exceeding the standard. Without question, she was one of the most dynamic and energetic people I know ... I had great respect for her opinion and judgment, and I would often look to Sharon for advice and counsel. She is remembered as the consummate professional, never wavering in her professionalism and mentoring of others.
Patriots are not just servants of the Nation, they are the lifeblood that keeps the Nation alive. Sharon Swartworth was such a dynamic person that she was not only the blood of the Nation, but the heart that pumped it throughout the Judge Advocate General's Corps. She was a perfect patriot to the end, shedding her own blood in the cause of freedom.
A NOBLE FRIEND
The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.
Selfless service to others is the duty of a Soldier, the privilege of a friend. Sharon served others as a privilege, not as a duty. Whether motivating those in uniform, caring for a Soldier in need, or serving in her community, Sharon made friends and brightened lives wherever she went. Her many friends have provided sparkling remembrances of her. These remembrances include:
Sharon was one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known, quick to recognize those around her, always helping, listening, and making time for anyone who needed it. She had the unique gift of making those around her feel important and special, which was evident by the enormous turnout to her service and funeral. Her sense of humor knew no bounds, always a smile on her face, always looking for the humor in any situation. If humor really is the best medicine, she should have been a doctor. Her passing has left a huge void in many peoples lives, mine included. There simply aren't enough words to describe the impact of her loss. Over the years she always greeted me with a hug and a huge smile that would brighten anyone's day. She just made you feel special when you talked with her.
Sharon was a "people person," a caring and compassionate person. Her heart and home were always open to those around her. Two vignettes help illustrate her immense capacity to love and serve her fellow Soldiers and neighbors.
On one occasion, Sharon became aware of a young noncommissioned officer (NCO) in need. As the holiday season approached, it became apparent that this young NCO, with a spouse and two children, was struggling financially. The NCO was a proud and dedicated Soldier who eschewed all overtures for help. Sharon quietly collected money behind the scenes and then personally took the spouse shopping. Her efforts ensured that this family would have a blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those around her knew that Sharon spent much more than she had collected from the office, but she refused to accept additional donations. Sharon never received any kind of recognition for this, nor would she have accepted recognition if it was offered. To her, she was doing nothing special. She was simply being Sharon--a caring leader who loved those around her.
After September 11th, Sharon's heart was breaking for the many friends in the Information Management Center (IMCEN) that she lost in that tragedy. She volunteered to assist the family of a young contractor in the IMCEN that worked in the area of the Pentagon that took the direct hit from the plane. Sharon met every need, sacrificing personal time to ensure the young man was properly honored and his family properly cared for. She even arranged for a Judge Advocate General's Corps General Officer to be present at the burial and present the United States flag to the family. Like all others she met in her life, this family saw the love and devotion that Sharon brought to her fellow man--a love and devotion that was as rare as it was special.
A FOUNDATION OF FAMILY
It is in the love of one's family only that heartfelt happiness is known.
At the foundation of Sharon's patriotism and propensity for friendship and caring for others was the love of her family. If, as Jefferson posits, happiness can only come from a family's love, Sharon received much love, because she constantly evinced happiness. That love began with her family growing up--from her father, Bernard Mayo, her brother, and her grandmother. But it continued with Bill and Billy, her husband and son. One of the saddest parts of Sharon's death is that it took her away from Billy, in whom she had immense pride and joy.
The story of Sharon and Bill's meeting at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, fourteen years ago is vintage Sharon Swartworth. As the story goes, Sharon was a Training, Advising, and Counseling Officer at the Warrant Officer Candidate School. As luck would have it, she met a young Navy doctor--a Lieutenant--in the all ranks club. The Lieutenant had ordered a pizza. In strolled Sharon--a young blonde in a ski jacket--who also ordered pizza. When the Lieutenant's pizza came out first, Sharon offered the young lieutenant a piece of her pizza later, if he would share his pizza with her. Not about to be distracted by an attractive, blonde whom he suspected of being a dependent daughter, the young lieutenant declined the offer with a curt, "no, thanks!" This young lieutenant was William Swartworth. Fortunately for Bill, fate did not end their encounters there. The next day, Sharon was serving on the ski patrol and was assisting an injured skier, when fate brought them together again as the lieutenant offered his professional medical services. Sharon's response to the doctor who would not share his pizza? "No, thanks!" Sharon was somewhat chagrined to learn that the injured Marine was a member of Bill's unit. Undeterred, and with the patient safely off the slopes, Sharon smiled widely and suggested they grab a drink at a slope side concession. The rest, as they say, is history.
There is love within a family, love between a husband and wife, but no love is more special than that between a mother and a child. Sharon's pride and joy was always Billy. Like many couples, Sharon and Bill fought hard to bring Billy into the world, and Sharon always viewed her son as a miracle. She never tired of providing those around her with an update on Billy's exploits. From a school performance to winning a chess tournament, every detail was a source of pride and every expression of pride sprung from a mother's love. Our prayer is that Billy always feels that love stretching across time and space from a mother who was also a hero to her Nation.
FAREWELL DEAR FRIEND Now rest in peace, our patriot band; Though far from nature's limits thrown, We trust they find a happier land, A brighter sunshine of their own -- Philip Freneau
The legacy of Sharon Swartworth is set in history and will endure. It is a legacy built on the foundation of family, forged in the tempest of patriotic military service to her Nation, and perfected in the bonds of friendship that we all shared with her. For those of us privileged to know Sharon, she will long remain the model we seek to emulate as a Soldier, friend, wife, and mother. She will forever be to us, a Perfect Patriot and a Noble Friend. *
Well Done, Sharon, Be Thou at Peace.
* The staff of The Army Lawyer thanks the many people who contributed to this memorial. Particular thanks go to Major General (retired) John Altenberg, Chief Warrant Officer Rick Johnson, and Chief Warrant Officer Marybeth Fangman for their invaluable help. Most importantly, we thank Bill and Billy Swartworth for allowing us to publish this memorial, and for sharing Sharon with us for so many years.
(1) All heading quotations in this memorial are taken from BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS (1919) or THE COLUMBIA WORLD OF QUOTATIONS (1996), available at www.bartleby.com (last visited Nov. 29, 2004).
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|Title Annotation:||Chief Warrant Officer Five Sharon T. Swartworth|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2004|
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