Chief Magistrate Judge Sterling Wimberly believes in service to his country.
“I see people who come through my court who if they’d had served in the military, they might be better off,” said Wimberly, a Vietnam veteran who was part of Augusta’s 319th Transportation Company, an Army Reserves unit, which was activated and deployed to Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
Wimberly joined the unit on the advice of his wife’s uncle, who’d also served in a Reserves unit. He signed up in 1966 and was in the ranks with others from Augusta and North Augusta.
“All these guys you basically knew. You either worked together or socialized together,” he said.
So when the group was deployed to Vietnam, the members had a different dynamic than other military units, and it eased some of the difficulty the young men faced being so far away from home.
“I turned 21 in Vietnam. The mess sergeant was the same; the platoon sergeant was the one I did basic training with,” he said. “I felt comfortable talking to them. Our commanding officer was right there with us.”
Their bond has remained tight almost 50 years later with annual reunions as well as other gatherings during the year.
“We normally met in December for Christmas dinner. All the guys get together at Ts,” he said.
When he returned from Vietnam, he got out of the unit for six months, but he got back in and remained in it until 1983. He worked as a deputy sheriff for seven years and then spent 16 years with McDonald’s. When the corporation wanted to move him to a larger market, he decided it was time to leave.
In 2008, he was elected as Chief Magistrate Judge in Burke County, and he’s won each re-election since.
Although there was controversy surrounding the war and serving in the military, Wimberly said it’s part of his life experience, and he doesn’t regret it.
“If I had to do it again, I would do it again,” he said.
Serving in the military provides a multitude of benefits, he said. Among them are discipline and the opportunity to meet and interact with people you wouldn’t regularly interact with.
The only regret Wimberly said he has is not staying in long enough to retire from the Reserves.
Wimberly’s two sons served in the military; one of them retired after 23 years. Two of six grandsons also have served in the military.
“My sons and I encouraged his boys that they needed to go into the military,” he said.