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Ameris Teammate Will McNeeley Honors Fallen Soldiers Through Scholarship Fund

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5.23.2022
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Community
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Michael Quirk

This Memorial Day, Ameris Bank recognizes teammate Will McNeeley and his efforts to remember and honor fallen soldiers.

The spirit of the military has always run through Will McNeeley’s blood. McNeeley, Ameris Bank’s loan officer marketing and social media manager, was inspired by his father who was a Marine, as well as both of his grandfathers who served in World War II. When 13 U.S. soldiers were killed during the August 2021 attack at the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan, he was compelled to act.

McNeeley is a passionate fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteer sports teams, something he shared with SSG Ryan Knauss, one of the 13 service members. McNeeley worked with school officials to create the Veteran’s Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship to benefit prospective graduate students at the Haslam School of Business at UT. With the support of Ryan Knauss’ family, the fund has been renamed The Afghan 13-SSG Ryan Christian Knauss Memorial Endowment.

In just two months, the fund raised more than $10,000. McNeeley’s goal is to raise $25,000 in 2022, which if reached, will qualify for a dollar-for-dollar match by the Haslam Family for every dollar raised thereafter.

“I wanted to do something that was immensely actionable to honor the Afghan 13 that was more than just a ‘thank you for your service and I’m sorry for your loss,’” he said. “This scholarship is not only a way to honor their legacy but also a way to impact the lives of individuals who are in our military or a family member of someone in the military to assist them in their higher educational dreams and aspirations.”

Knauss’ beloved Volunteer sports teams and the community have also joined in with their support.

Baseball players Redmond Walsh and Will Mabrey as well as football player Navy Shuler have each promoted the scholarship, thanks to a partnership with Spyre Sports Group, a sports marketing agency based in Knoxville. UT’s football coach Josh Huepel and baseball coach Tony Vitello have also helped raise money through signed memorabilia.

At a community celebration held at Weigel’s, a local convenience store chain, the store dedicated a garden and plaque at one of their locations to Knauss and renamed the street it is on after him as well. Country music singer Coffey Anderson was also in attendance, where he performed and autographed a shirt to raise money for the endowment fund.

While McNeeley never had the opportunity to meet SSG Knauss or the other 12 soldiers killed in the attack, he was moved to do something to honor them. He believes this and every Memorial Day is an important reminder to show gratitude for those who lost their lives defending the freedoms Americans hold dear back home.

“Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. The military is deeply rooted in our family as many of my family members made the decision to serve. And because of their service, learning of their experiences from deployment, and why they decided to serve, I have gained an immense respect and honor for them.”

By: Michael Quirk

Michael Quirk is the communications coordinator for Ameris Bank. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Katy, and their two dogs. He enjoys running, playing fetch with his golden retriever and watching any sports that come across the TV.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Ameris Bank does not endorse nor is affiliated with the companies listed in this article.