As a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Evans High School for the past eight years, I have numerous memories of students whom I have had the privilege to instruct, coach and mentor.
Although our mission in JROTC is to motivate young men and women to be better American citizens and our entire focus is in this arena, it should not be too surprising to learn that the majority of the students who stay in the program for three or four years have an interest in making the military a short- or long-term career after graduating from high school.
As I reflect on our countrys current crisis and mobilization for war, there are many faces of former students that come to my mind who may find themselves in harms way in the coming months, and maybe even years, that lie ahead.
Lt. Cesar Rivera, a U.S. Army Field Artillery officer with the 18th Airborne Corps;
Lt. Jason Colborn, a U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter pilot;
Lt. David Rivera, a U.S. Army Air Defense officer with a Patriot missile battery;
Spec. Lee Rimmer, a U.S. Army infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division;
Lance Cpl. Jared Alexander, a U.S. Marine; and,
Seaman Samantha Bush, a U.S. Navy Medical Corpsman.
There are additionally, more than 60 additional former students who are products of our program in all branches of the service who may be called upon in the near future.
If it is a protracted conflict such as our commander-in-chief has declared, it will even affect three recent Evans High alumni and West Point graduates that include my son, Daniel; Andrew Wild; and Michael Jackson. Daniel and Andrew will be assigned to the 4th Infantry Division once they complete their Infantry Officer Basic and Ranger training, and Michael will join the 82nd Airborne Division once he is finished with his basic Artillery Officer training.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a great crusade every bit as important as the one we waged as a country to free the world of Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese militarists 60 years ago. I am thankful that there are men and women that have made the decision to serve this great county of ours by donning the uniforms of the U.S. armed forces and are prepared to do their duty, whatever that may be.
We, as a nation, are not a belligerent people. These men and women joined our armed forces not so they could go to war; they joined to get an education, to grow up, to learn skills for life and to be productive members of our society. However, I am confident of this: They will do their duty just as their forefathers did.
As a nation, I know we do not have as many people who are willing to pay the price necessary for freedom as there were in 1940, but my prayer is that there will be enough. All who study our history, from the American Revolution to Desert Storm, know that freedom isnt free. It was bought and paid for with a price, and we must be willing to pay the price today if we want to keep it.
In 1776, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence paid a price. "Of the fifty-six, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes, from Rhode Island to Charleston, sacked, looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two lost their sons in the army. One had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six died in the war, from it hardships or from its bullets" (Derric Johnson,The Rebirth of America).
More than 50,000 men died on the fields near Gettysburg, Penn., in July1863. Some 2,500 gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6,1944. Over 50,000 were lost in the jungles, rice paddies and airspace over Vietnam. We have already paid a price in lost lives to the terrorists in Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Lockerbie Scotland, the U.S.S. Cole, the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, in a field in Pennsylvania, and others. We will pay again. It is time to go on the offensive and make sure that those who are terrorists or who support terrorists pay even more.
My only regret at this point is that the U.S. Army has no need for an old, broken-down infantry soldier like me because I would be happy to pack my bags and join in this fight.
(Lt. Col. Patrick D. Rivette, U.S. Army retired, is a senior Army instructor and JROTC instructor at Evans High School. Rivette also is author of the newly released historical novel, The Chief Centurion, available from www.xlibris.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.