In a ceremony that included many veteran’s of the older generation, special recognition went to a group that has not even served, but takes on the qualities of the armed services.
For the first time at the Walter Davis Cultural Center in Freedom, the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps took part in the Veterans Day program Saturday.
“This was not a mandatory thing for them, they are here because they want to be here,” said Freddie Joe Wilkerson, Retired Command Sergeant Major and one of the teachers of the Barren County JROTC.
Wilkerson said the JROTC allows the younger generations to have a good model of what’s right and for the older generation to be assured that their traditions will be honored on Veterans Day.
Wilkerson, who fought in Desert Storm, does not include himself in the older generation of veterans. He says he still thanks those that were a part of World War II in many ways, like taking the trash out for a neighbor of his who fought in the war.
“I used to see him out there and I’d just go over and do it for him,” Wilkerson said. “I just think ‘you have done for me, now I’ll do for you.’”
Even if the JROTC decide not to go into a life of military service, the skills and qualities they have learned as a cadet will stay with them in whatever their endeavors will be. The Veterans Day program was also a learning experience for them.
“I guess I didn’t think it would mean as much, but after you talk to the veterans and hear their stories, you understand and it means something,” said Cadet Major Jeanne Kelly, executive officer of the JROTC.
The young cadets raised the nation’s flag in the ceremony Saturday, along with the POW/MIA flag.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Travis Lyle, guest speaker for the program, gave the students the advice he had been given in 1952 at bootcamp.
“Expect at least one war in the time of service, maybe two ,” Lyle said.
He also gave the students thinking about a career in the military advice about their commitment.
“Military service demands a special kind of sacrifice … no military service in the world can be compared with that of the United States,” Lyle said.