It’s a tradition that impacts those who served and in many cases those who are serving others because of the emotional connections that are formed between the visitors and the guests.
Nov. 11, the Smith-Cotton JROTC will host its Veteran’s Day Honor Breakfast and Ceremony as a way to give back and honor the men and women who served the United States and citizens in other countries around the world, both in times of peace and combat.
“Our breakfast and ceremony is a way that we can give back to those individuals who risk their lives for our country,” Cadet Capt. Nikkolle Warren said. “We want to recognize them for all they did for us.
“When it’s over, I think for me, I stop and reflect on the day and all the conversations I have had with the veterans and their families who attend,” she added. “It’s so neat to see all the smiles on their faces but on ours too.”
Warren described the conversations as heartwarming, commenting that for many of the cadets it is a way to see they can make a difference in the lives of the veterans.
Battalion Cmdr. Jeralyn Allen also thinks one of the most meaningful aspects of the day is those connections that cross generational lines.
“Everyone has someone they know who has served or has a family member who is a veteran,” Allen said. “We want to honor all of those individuals.”
The event takes months of planning, according to both cadets, and it is something that takes a small army to accomplish — each of the 225 cadets in JROTC this year participates in some capacity in the breakfast or ceremony.
“We really try to get as many students as possible to take part in the assembly as we can,” Warren said. “Our show choir will perform, singing several pieces, including each of the service branches hymns.
“We give the student body American flags that they wave as the veterans and their guests are seated,” she added. “This year Yeager Coen, who is a junior, will play ‘Taps’ during the ceremony.”
JROTC also encourages all of the organizations and clubs at Smith-Cotton to take part in the parade on Ohio Avenue that is scheduled for 3 p.m. Veteran’s Day. The JROTC co-sponsors the parade with the 40 & 8, a local veteran’s group.
“We have a gentleman, Frank Rufenacht, who contacted us expressing his desire to be in our parade this year,” Cmdr. Sgt. Maj. Randall Woods said. “Mr. Rufenacht wrote to us saying he Googles parades, seeking ones he would like to take part in.
“We were the only Veteran’s Day parade he could find,” Woods said. “He is planning on being here dressed as Uncle Sam driving a 1970 vintage Palomino tractor.”
Woods commented on the kindness and generosity of the businesses and the community to make all of the day’s activities possible.
“We have a group of ladies we affectionately call the Booster Club Mamas, who make the casseroles and coffee cakes that we serve at the breakfast, and the food services ladies do a lot of additional cooking and help us a great deal,” Woods said. “We are always looking at the event and trying to figure out what we can do to make it better.
“That’s why we stopped serving pancakes and started to serve biscuits and gravy, we realized that’s what more of our guests like to eat,” he said. “There are so many good, kind generous people who give so much and this day is rewarding to see because of those individuals and the efforts and hard work of the cadets; it’s their program and they deserve the credit for their efforts.”
Woods added that the Sedalia School District 200 and administration also deserved thanks and recognition for the support they give the battalion, not just on Veteran’s Day but throughout the year.
Warren and Allen also wished to thank the district and the support of the community in honoring the veterans.
“Our commanders give us the responsibility and credit for the event, but they won’t let us fail,” Warren said. “They teach us so many valuable skills and things we will need for the future.
“The program has shaped us as people and without the opportunities we have been given we would be totally different individuals,” she added. “The Veteran’s Day Ceremony is a small way we can say thank you.”
The S-C JROTC Honor Breakfast and Ceremony will begin at 7:45 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11. Maj. William Ratcliffe, a Purple Heart recipient from Lexington, will be the guest speaker. The Veteran’s Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
Attendees to the breakfast are asked to RSVP to the Army JROTC office at 660-851-5317.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.