ZHS JROTC leading by example

Group of cadets give back to their community

Down to the finest detail, the cadets of the Zephyrhills JROTC were ready for “Project Patriotism” to commence.

The more than 40 cadets were ready to give back to their community, pay proper tribute to “Old Glory” and honor those who served their country and were laid to rest at Zephyrhills’ Oakside Cemetery.

In a special ceremony this morning the Bulldog Battalion conducted a flag retirement ceremony with full honor guard and saber arch before getting down and dirty to clean the headstones of the more than 400 veterans that made Oakside their final resting place.

“It really is a great experience especially for being a high school student myself,” said Command Sergeant Major James Laferriere. “It gives me aspirations to keep going and doing more. The great people at the city and the people of this community are getting behind us as we get active in the community.

“This shows our role in the community and its very humbling feeling.”

The several years ago, the JROTC just held the flag retirement ceremony. It has since grown with the color guard, saber arch and in the last few years, the grave cleaning was added.

The JROTC ranks are loaded with underclassmen and this event is setting the tone for their community involvement in the future.

“This is not something that’s going to end anytime soon,” said Annaleese Thomas. “The younger generations coming up behind us in the battalion will continue this effort. The veterans here served and were willing to give their lives for their country. We will continue to come out here and respect them and say thank you after they’re gone. It’s the least we can do.”

The City of Zephyrhills contributed funding toward the project for supplies, transportation and meals, for the service event. Other community leaders have stepped up to help this worthwhile project.

According to Senior Army Instructor Jimmy McAuley, that support shows the community sees the value of the future young people in the community.

“It means a lot,” McAuley said. “You can see the learning process activated. You can see the maturity of the cadets over the year how they have taken control and are leading the way. As instructor and as a father, it gives me great pride to be out there because this shows the youth of this community are still valuable. These are the future leaders and they are setting the tone for a great America.”

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