Honoring our nation’s heroes

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Benton JRTOC keeps tradition alive

Cadets with the LA-951 Air Force Junior ROTC at Benton High School are honoring veterans in a big way.

The group participates in year round activities for the sole purpose of giving thanks whenever they can. One of those ways is through an annual Veterans Day assembly for the community.

The cadets spend weeks planning and organizing an agenda, finding a guest speaker and inviting local dignitaries, including Lt. Gen. Steven Wilson, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, and Col. Andrew Gebara, Commander of the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base. LA-951 Wing Commander Hunter Horton said the hour and a half long ceremony is one day of the year when the school and community gathers together to let local veterans know they aren’t forgotten.

“We don’t want to lose sight of what this day is about,” Horton said. “We stress that we are here to remember the ones who can’t be here with us because they were killed in action, missing in action or a prisoner of war.”

Cadets have been preparing for over a month now, staying three to four days a week after school, to welcome veterans into the school. Service men and women from all military branches will be honored with songs, poems and many ‘thank yous.’

There will also be a video compiled of footage from homecoming celebrations, live battles from war and messages from former LA-951 cadets. Horton said watching the video is when the realization of war really hits home.

“It’s hard to walk away without feeling some kind of emotion,” Horton said. “A lot of kids don’t realize the sacrifice until they see the video.”

Senior cadet Savannah Jones said the emotions are real and have a big impact on the ceremony. She, too, knows that sacrifice well.

As the daughter of an airman, Jones, the Mission Support Squadron Commander for the LA-951, has traveled the country and even lived in Germany for seven years because of the Air Force.

“I know what my dad went through being deployed and away from home,” Jones said. “It plays into what I do because I realize the true benefit of it. As fun as it is, ROTC really is training you to realize how important people are that do go into the military.”

Sophomore cadet Peyten Marquez knows the military way of life too. His family moved to Bossier Parish last summer when his step-father was reassigned to Barksdale Air Force Base.

Marquez said his participation in ROTC has taught him respect and integrity.

“I’ve never been part of a group like this before,” Marquez said. “We all appreciate what the veterans, past and present, do for our country. I hope to see that role for myself one day.”

Throughout the year, cadets organize and host blood drives, fundraisers, deliver Valentine’s Day cards and sing Christmas carols to local nursing homes and and visit the local children’s hospital. The highest honor, Horton said, is participating in the POW/MIA luncheon at Barksdale Air Force Base each year. There, cadets perform a remembrance ceremony for hundreds of military veterans, guests and military officials in honor of the service men and women who have yet to return home from war.

Horton said the year-round time the cadets of LA-951 spend serving the community and honoring veterans is “absolutely worth it.”

“They come up to us and thank us, but in reality we are the ones really thanking them. Without their service, we wouldn’t be here to do this,” Horton said. “The reward for us is seeing them happy and wanting to come back the next year.”

So what are the other reasons to be a cadet in the LA-951 AFJROTC?

Horton said it’s all about learning valuable life lessons.

“The leadership that’s involved is probably the biggest thing for me,” Horton said. “My motto is to never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. If I’ve never done it, I make sure I at least try it before I teach it.”

For Marquez, there is still that possibility of one day joining the service, which he said the ROTC is preparing him for now. He has his eyes set on joining the Navy.

“Being lazy and irresponsible won’t get you far in life,” Marquez said. “Seeing the kind of person my step-dad is and how respected he is makes me want to be that kind of person.”

Jones, however, said is best.

“It’s a citizenship program. It teaches us to respect the American way of life and to be proud of the men and women who stand up, serve and protect our country.”

 

Veterans Day legacy brings community together

Story by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — A Fall holiday, often celebrated with parades and barbecues, actually got its start almost 100 years ago.

Veterans Day is a federal holiday celebrated Nov. 11, in which Americans honor those who have served in the military, both living and deceased.

The Nov. 11 holiday is born from “Armistice Day,” which was established in 1919 to honor the veterans of World War I and to commemorate the end of the war between the Allied powers and Germany.

Other allies of the United States during World War I and II, such as France, Britain, Canada and Australia, also remember their veterans on or near Nov. 11.

Britain knows the holiday as “Remembrance Day,” while “Remembrance Sunday” is the second Sunday of November in Australia and is often signaled by a moment of silence at 11 a.m. In the U.S., Veterans Day is commemorated by a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Department of Veterans Affairs website states that June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day of celebration to honor America’s veterans for patriotism, love of country, willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

“Veterans have a lot of benefits, such as being able to continue using base facilities,” said retired Cmdr. Monty Wyche, a veteran of the Army and Navy. “My wife and I go shopping on base all the time. There are also medical benefits.”

In celebration of the upcoming holiday, the local community will offer its support in festivities.

“[My husband and I] are going to the Veterans Day parade downtown,” said Staff Sgt. Cecily Yandell, 2nd Medical Group immunizations technician.

“Veterans Day is a way for us to remember what people in the military have done and are continuing to do for this country.”

Airmen and their families can seek information from local newspapers or websites to find out what Veterans Day community activities are available in the local area.

“It’s all about respecting those who have been in the military,” said Airman 1st Class Cody Damron, 2nd Munitions Squadron cruise missile maintainer, who will spend the holiday camping with his friends. “I’m proud of what [veterans] have done for us, so it’s important for us to take time to remember them.”