“A lot of times, you don’t know there is a veteran that you may be in some type of relationship with until you start asking who is a veteran,” said Lt. Col. Greg McAfee, the senior Army instructor of the Junior ROTC Army program at Paulding County High School.
But the JROTC cadets have set out to bring these veterans to light and honor them during its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. at the school’s gym.
“It’s a way to bring veterans out to the community, honor them, recognize them and not forget,” McAfee said.
In the weeks leading up to the event, cadets, other students and even teachers scout out veterans and invite them to the ceremony, during which each veteran is called out onto the gym floor where they walk through an arch of sabers held by the cadets, while information on their service is read aloud.
“Some of these people, it goes way back — Vietnam, Desert Storm,” McAfee said.
By recognizing them and their service out loud to those in attendance, McAfee said it’s a way of honoring them.
The event is free and open to the public.
The 300-cadet JROTC program at Paulding County High is the largest of the five county high schools.
“Our main mission is to make better citizens, so we work with the kids on what it means to be a good citizen,” McAfee said. “We have history classes; military classes, beyond that it becomes a leadership laboratory. We work with the cadets, not just in the classroom, but prepare them to lead whether in the military or in college or lead in the civilian world.”
The ability to foster leadership is one of the strengths of the school’s program, McAfee said.
The cadets participate in a number of activities, including those that are extracurricular, including physical training, shooting precision rifles and participating on air rifle and drill teams.
McAfee also said the JROTC’s relationship with the community is strong.
“We have community service, service learning, we collect toys for special needs kids in elementary school,” he said.
And, of course, the Veterans Day ceremony, McAfee added.
The JROTC Army program is partially funded by the military, and McAfee said not only is community service a form of character building for the cadets, but it makes the program’s presence publicly known.
“The people out there and community know what they are getting for their tax dollars. I think we reflect that well,” he said.