The veterans who are part of the Capt. Mark Garner VFW Post 7794 in Elkin make it a point to support the younger generation of potential soldiers who participate in the Elkin High School JROTC program, and Thursday was no exception.
But leaders with both groups explained the partnership between the local VFW post and the school’s JROTC is a two-way street.
Sam Bishop, quartermaster for the VFW post, visited the high school cadets Thursday morning to present them with a check for $500 from the veterans to help support programs the cadets take part in outside of the classroom.
“The VFW has been great at supporting us pretty much every semester,” said Maj. Roy Ferguson, lead instructor for the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Elkin High. “We have a very good relationship with the VFW. They invite some of our cadets to their dinners and we speak to the veterans and we show them pictures of our activities.
“It is a good relationship with the young cadets who are thinking about the military and sharing with the veterans who have already been there,” he said.
Bishop attends the cadets’ trip each semester to Raven Knob Boy Scout camp in Lowgap where the students are able to rappel and canoe.
“The money they give us helps us with the cost of rappelling and canoeing and buying lunch,” said Ferguson. “That’s one thing the money goes to.”
Other activities which the funding assists with include buying trophies for drill meets hosted by the local JROTC program and travel and entry expenses for the Elkin JROTC Raider team when it goes to other locations to compete.
“Having a JROTC program that’s active takes a lot of money,” explained Ferguson.
The Army, which supports Elkin’s JROTC program, provides computers and uniforms for the program, and the school provides funding for the instructors and facilities to hold classes. But anything over and above those provisions must be funded through fundraising efforts and donations, he said.
Bishop explained the cadets help the VFW in this partnership the two groups have formed.
“The cadets put all the veterans’ flags on gravesites at local cemeteries; that’s in excess of 500 flags,” said Bishop. “They provide an honor guard or color guard for Memorial Day and other programs.
“It’s a two-way street with us, because we see the benefit of the [JROTC] program in the community.”
Bishop also mentioned cadets have in the past helped alongside veterans with Buddy Poppy sales.
The JROTC program has between 90 and 100 cadets each year, with some taking the course first and second semester and others just taking it one semester.
“We try to do two Raider meets each semester and two drill meets a semester,” Ferguson said. “We go to Raven Knob once each semester, and two community service projects a semester. We also do one blood drive per semester.”
Sgt. Kenneth Abrams, also an instructor for Elkin’s JROTC program, coordinates community outreach with area churches and organizations. The cadets have provided color guards for churches’ Memorial and Veterans Day services as well as other special programs.
For the check presentation Thursday, Ferguson and Bishop both took a few minutes to remind the cadets about the importance of the partnership between the two organizations.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.