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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Every day is Veterans' Day when veterans serve in classroom

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Members of the New Madrid County Central's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps work on their speeches for the schools Veterans' Day Program.
NEW MADRID -- Americans will likely hear the testimonies of the country's veterans during a special ceremony or assembly Tuesday in honor Veterans' Day.

But it's the cadets with New Madrid County Central's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps and Charleston R-1's Junior ROTC who have the privilege of listening to veterans speak every day during their ROTC classes at school.

To qualify as an instructor for the ROTC, a person must be a retiree from the military with 20-plus years of military experience.

Lt. Col. Rick Sherman, a veteran of the Vietnam War with over 28 years of federal service in the Army National Guard, is serving his ninth year as the senior army instructor for NMCC's JROTC. Sherman said his experiences have played a role in teaching students in the program.

"We teach a block on military history and cover some of Vietnam," Sherman said. "When we teach leadership, I incorporate a lot of principles from my experience. A lot of the things we also teach are situational-type things."

Throughout the year, the NMCC JROTC passes out poppies to the public and then splits the donations with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Sikeston and Lilbourn, Sherman said. The students also takes care of placing flags on veterans' graves in the Mounds and Sand Hill cemeteries, he said.

"One of the things we try to do is by working with the VFW and American Legion, it introduces the cadets to the veterans' organizations and lets them understand what they're about," Sherman noted.

Last month Charleston's JROTC cadets attended the dedication ceremony of the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield. "We took the kids over (to Bloomfield), where they could gain an appreciation for what veterans have sacrificed for the country," said Charleston R-1 Junior ROTC senior army instructor Maj. Ross Robey.

Being in Southeast Missouri, the kids are basically removed from the military all together, other than the National Guard, noted Robey. As the war began last spring, many of the students didn't know much about what was going on, said the U.S. Army veteran.

"They're seeing more in the press, and the kids started forming opinions about way they feel about certain things," Robey said. "We want them to develop opinions on, say international-type issues, that young people normally don't get involved in."

And with wounded soldiers coming back, even from not so faraway places like Fort Campbell, Ky., it's becoming a little more obvious to the students what people sacrifice so Americans can enjoy what they have, Robey explained.

One of the main purposes in JROTC is to motivate young people to be better citizens, not to get them to enlist in military, Robey said.

"We're trying to get these kids to make the right decisions when confronted with conflict. Once they make a decision, they have to accept the consequences. We teach them to stand up and accept responsibility," Robey said.

In its fourth year at Charleston, the JROTC program has 50 students enrolled. NMCC began its ninth year of the JROTC program and currently has 81 members, down from its normal 90-110 due to a change in curriculum requirements this year.

Like several area schools and groups, New Madrid County Central JROTC will conduct a program for area veterans at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The event is planned by the group's third and fourth year cadets and cosponsored with the National Honor Society.

On Tuesday the Charleston JROTC will perform battalion formation. Some cadets will receive medals of honor so they can get a better understanding of Veterans' Day, Robey said. Approximately 20-25 first-year JROTC cadets at Charleston will visit the Stars and Stripes Museum on Friday, he added.

NMCC JROTC Battalion Sgt. Maj. Shira Long has attended previous NMCC Veterans' Day ceremonies. Long said she learns a lot from the ceremonies.

"I feel Veterans' Day is very important because they do a lot for us. Being in the ROTC has made me really think and appreciate the Army," Long said.

Stevi Stewart, battalion commander of NMCC JROTC, said some of the things she has learned from veterans are leadership qualities, loyalty to the country, selfless service, integrity and initiative.

"Actually I think it's a really good idea to honor the veterans," Stewart said. "Sometimes people forget why we have Veterans' Day."

Stewart admitted she once thought in order to be a veteran, a person had to have fought in a war, but she has since learned a veteran is anyone who has served in the military.

"Veterans are no different than anybody else," Sherman pointed out. "It's just that they were chosen or chose to serve in the country's time of need. Right from the beginning (of the program), we tell cadets the military service is not for everybody -- it takes a special person."