2011-12-16 / Columns

Your Owen County Community Foundation

Dining In With Owen Valley’s ROTC Unit
by Mark Rogers
Executive Director

Last Saturday night, I had the honor of addressing the Owen Valley Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at their annual “Dining In” event. Dining In is a military tradition that goes back to at least the 17th century British army and is steeped in tradition and full of fun and camaraderie. Our cadets definitely succeeded in carrying out their event with the required pomp, esprit de corps, and a raucous good time.

In case you have not had the chance to see our local Owen Valley ROTC cadets in action, allow me to fill you in. Our unit was founded in 2005 and has flourished under the leadership of Lt. Col. Dave Allen and Sgt. Cindy Greenwell ever since. The focus of the Air Force Junior ROTC is citizenship as opposed to military training as you might guess. Our cadets have been involved in so many community activities exercising their citizenship skills. They are hard to miss. They march in local parades in their sharp uniforms to show their pride in their Owen County home and spend hours and hours supporting other causes like our 2008 flood recovery or performing their very moving flag folding ceremony for local senior citizens. The Owen Valley ROTC unit is one of the crown jewels of our school system. My pride in this group grows steadily.

When I was planning my remarks for the event, I got hung up in the very first sentence. As I planned the usual “I am honored to be here speaking to you tonight” bit, I realized that I truly felt honored by this group of young people. I was honored to be part of their Dining In because these cadets honor me and they honor their community through their good works and their demeanor. These ROTC cadets honor us with their dedication to an important institution in our society – the ROTC and the United States military and through their dedication to the cause of citizenship.

I spent my few minutes with our cadets letting them know what a unique position they inhabit in our community and to call attention to an extra responsibility that comes with that position. Here is a group of fresh-faced youngsters who command the respect of hundreds of people in their home community, most of whom they don’t know personally, who are very proud of them because they’re a cadet in the Owen Valley AFJROTC. I thought I should clue them in to the fact that some of their biggest admirers are themselves military veterans, and in many cases, veterans of combat in the defense of our nation. Veterans like the late Frank Stewart and Jack Money, WWII vets who made generous donations to support this ROTC unit. Our cadets are not out of high school yet and combat vets are looking up to them and what they represent.

It’s a cool thing really. The cadets didn’t have to do much to earn this respect from family, neighbors, and strangers alike. They’re all pretty dang lucky. I challenged our cadets to think about where they are. They were born – alive. They were born in the United States of America where every citizen has freedoms unheard of for most of mankind’s time on earth. They were born in the 21st Century after eons of human advances in culture, science and medicine. They have a free school where they have ROTC. These weren’t rewards – they were gifts of birth. So the cadets signed up, cleaned up, and put on a uniform. And people LOVE them for it! They’re on a roll!

At the same time, the fact that their community feels honored by the cadets for their participation in this ROTC unit provides each and every one of them with a bit of a challenge – a challenge that they will have to confront not just when they put on those uniforms occasionally, but every week, every day, and every moment. That challenge is to live up to this state of honor bestowed on them by their Creator and their community. The challenge is to live up to this high standard, while the darker alternative is to betray the gift of respect.

But on top of all the other things that have absolutely gone right for these young citizens, they now belong to an organization of equally lucky stiffs who share the challenge. They have each other to help with the daily challenge of how they will live up to these expectations from their family and community. When they need help deciding to do the right thing, they’ve got the rest of their unit to help. When they get some kidding and peer pressure when they decide to do the right thing, they have each other to bolster their resolve. They have unit IN-20051 of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps to keep them strong. They are not alone. These cadets are part of a unit. The support they give each other in confronting this challenge and others defines the esprit de corps that is such an important part of what these cadets are learning from their ROTC experience at Owen Valley High School.

So, that’s why I got a little side-tracked when I thought about how honored I was to be speaking with our ROTC cadets last Saturday night. And from what I saw of these young citizens, they are ready to go out and live up to the challenge and to rely on their comrades, their unit, to be stronger than they are as individuals.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value our children and want to help them succeed and be safe. If you would like to know more about how you can join with your neighbors to help support our local ROTC unit, give me a call at 829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at www.owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit in person at our office located on the second floor of the Owen County State Bank building at 201 West Morgan Street in Spencer.

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