Meet Roger Melendrez, a former City Park student and veteran who is determined to give back to the community that raised him.
Melendrez was raised in Dalton and attended both City Park and Dalton High School where he participated in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
“Once I figured the JROTC program was really about forming students to become better citizens, I really grasped on to that,” Melendrez said.
According to Melendrez, the emphasis on community service and good citizenship throughout the JROTC program spurred him to pursue a career in the military.
After his senior year of high school, Melendrez joined the Marine Corps where he served across the world.
“My job in the military dealt with logistics,” Melendrez said. “While I was in the military, I had a few deployments. I got to go to Afghanistan while I was 14 months into the Marine Corps. I was relatively young.”
After also serving in Europe and Honduras, Melendrez’s time in the military came to an end, and he found his way back to Dalton.
Since returning home, Melendrez has opened an axe throwing venue. Melendrez said the inspiration for Big’s Axe Throwing came from the community he found in the sport after returning from the military.
“To get my mind off some things, I decided to go axe throwing,” Melendrez said. “Axe throwing really did help me. I figured it did save my life more or less. It brought me stress relief and a ‘calm down’ mindset.”
Now, Melendrez is recognized as a professional axe thrower and uses his business to give back to his community through donating time and money to the Boys and Girls Club among other organizations.
“We’ve been here at the Mill now for two years and some months just throwing axes and having a great time,” Melendrez said. “Every year we do an annual fundraising event here. We raise money to donate to the Boys and Girls Club. That’s a part of me as well. I was actually a member of the Boys and Girls Club. The Boys and Girls club holds a great deal in my heart.”
When reflecting on his time in Dalton Public Schools, Melendrez said he is grateful for mentors such as Dalton High Senior Army Instructor Command Sergeant Major Heriberto Vazquez and various City Park teachers for their dedication to character development and student achievement.
Melendrez encourages students to take an active role in their community through any means.
“Go ahead and get involved with the community,” Melendrez said. “Do what you can. Volunteer. Do not expect to get anything out of it. Do it out of your own heart. You’ll find that giving back to the community will definitely give you a better feeling.”