JROTC honors veterans

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Members of the Houghton High School JROTC conclude the Flag Folding Ceremony during its Veterans Day Program on Friday.

HOUGHTON — The Superior Battalion, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) conducted a Veterans Day Program in Houghton high school gymnasium Friday, that featured performances by the HHS Choir and the HHS Marching Band.

In remembering the armistice that ended the fighting in Europe on Nov. 11, 1918, the program began at 11 a.m., exactly 104 years after the guns fell silent and ended four years of hostilities that left 20 million dead.

The program paid tribute to all U.S. service veterans, and equated their efforts with the meaning and value of service, as well as sacrifices veterans have made and continue to make.

Superior Battalion JROTC Instructor, U.S. Army Col. Dylan Carlson (Ret) of the 82nd Airborne Division, said the 80 cadets in the program had been working for weeks coordinating and putting the program together.

“I think what Veterans Day means to cadets,” Carlson said, “– what we try to instill in them in our program is recognition of service, an appreciation for civic responsibility, for doing something that is bigger than an individual, and so really, Veterans Day is a great time to see that in practice, because that’s really what it is. It’s a celebration of those who have served their country.”

Carlson said while Memorial Day and Veterans Day are often confused, it is good to keep them separated. Memorial Day is a solemn day, he said, while Veterans Day is a happy day.

“This isn’t a day that we think about the hard sacrifices,” he said, “this is a day when we think about the commitments they made.”

Guest Speaker, Paul Nelson, Associate Professor in the School of Business and Economics (Emeritus) at Michigan Tech, articulated Carlton’s words.

“Our veterans are people just like you,” said Nelson. “We had the same desires and ambitions for life ahead of us that you now have. We had families and friends, hobbies and habits, likes and dislikes, just like you.”

Some volunteered to serve in the Military, while others were drafted under the Selective Service system, which still exists, he said.

“Most of us faced up to our responsibilities and gave it our best. Many of us look back to our time in service as the time when we were truly alive,” he said, “when it mattered; when important things depended on us; when we stretched further than we thought we ever could; when we felt pride in our work.”

Some veterans gave their lives in combat, some were seriously injured, Nelson said, many developed illnesses which stayed with them for life.

“But whether veterans were in harm’s way in combat or not,” he said, “every one of them made sacrifices for our country.”

Nelson said that they gave two to four years of their lives to serve their country, most were absent from friends and family for months and years at a time.

“Most,” he told the students, “were only a few a years older than you are today.” Many, he continued, had to make life-and-death decisions that have haunted them the rest of their lives, “memories that they are not able to forget.”

Nelson, who was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery during the Vietnam War, said it has been his experience that most veterans who have seen action rarely talk about it, “sometimes, not even to their families or loved ones.”

But also, every veteran he knows, he went on, has a special love for the country and for the flag.

“To a veteran, a flag is more than a piece of cloth,” Nelson, an American Legion member, said. “It is a symbol for everything they fought for. It will be our last blanket at our funeral, covering our caskets.”

At the cemetery committal service, after rifles are fired and Taps is played, Nelson said he sometimes has the honor of presenting a flag to the next of kin.

“It is a most solemn moment,” he said.

Nelson said that while all military veterans are honored on Nov. 11, he does not feel that is what is important about Veterans Day.

“I believe that the purpose of this holiday is not me, but you. I believe that the real benefit of this holiday is helping you, the youth of our nation, to realize that our freedom, our way of life, is not free.”

Just as millions of people like him answered the nation’s call, a day may come when it will be the turn of today’s youth.

“Will you be able to leave your family, your friends, your car, your favorite activities, and perhaps, even your music and cell phones? Not just for a day, but for two or more years.

“There are many threats to our peace and to our freedom today. There are nations and peoples right now that want to harm us. Who will there be to defend us? If not you, then who?”

In honoring all veterans, the JROTC also remembered the MIA/POWs with the display and ceremony of the Vacant Table.

During the program, the HHS Choir sang the Star-Spangled Banner and To Those Who Serve. The HHS Band performed Sound Attention, the Military Service songs and America.

JROTC members conducted the Rifle Cordon, Presentation of the Colors, along with a demonstration by the Drill Team. Members also recited patriot poems.

The program concluded with Taps, played by Emanuela Bagnasco, which was echoed by Sara Neva.


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