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Lee cadets conduct annual service learning project

JROTC at Lee High School

The senior cadets of the JROTC Volunteer Battalion at Lee High School conducted their annual service learning project on February 15.  The cadets took part in the National Salute to Veteran Patients at the Audie Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital.

Prior to the visit, LTC (R) Troy J. Ramirez, the Senior Army Instructor, presented the cadets with the formal lesson to distinguish the difference between service learning and community service.  Although community service is inherent to all JROTC programs, as well as other extracurricular activities, service learning, on the other hand, is a bit more complex in the fact students gain more insight and wisdom than just “doing something” for the community. 

Audie Murphy

A headstone dedicated to Audie Leon Murphy.

“During our trip to the Audie Murphy VA Hospital, I helped distribute Valentines Day Cards to veteran patients. I also listened to their stories about their time in the service and even their daily activities.  It was a fun and insightful experience that allowed me to see things in another perspective," said Cadet 1LT Makayla Wisel. “It also gave me more information on my career in the military.  Being able to visit with the veterans really reminded me of how blessed I am and how much another person has sacrificed for me to be able to keep those blessings.  It also re-instilled a sense of pride in me because of my family’s extensive military history,”said the fourth year cadet.

Although the service learning class was presented to all cadets, only the upperclassmen participated in this ceremony.  The Department of Veterans Affairs hosts this annual event, and each year a celebrity is chosen as the National Salute Chairperson to focus public attention and encourage participation.  James Elliot was chosen as the 2014 National Salute Chairperson. 

Among local senior leaders to attend the ceremony was Lieutenant General Perry L. Wiggins, Commander, United States Army North (5th Army) and Major General Jimmie O. Keenan, Commander, Southern Regional Medical Command Director, San Antonio Military Health System Chief, US Army Nurse Corps.  Both LTG Wiggins and MG Keenan were extremely hospitable in the midst of a diverse audience.  The audience was composed of a mix of all service branches, local civic leaders, hospital staff, patient family, and of course JROTC cadets. 

Upon completion of the official ceremony, the Volunteer Cadets separated in 6 groups to present Valentine Cards and visit with veterans and their families.  The event was a two hour interaction that began at 10:00 AM.

Once the visit was complete, the cadets were required to reflect on the visit.  They were instructed to answer three questions to quantify their service learning experience.  The structured reflection was composed of three ideas/questions:

1.  Observation – What did I do?
2.  Analysis – What did it mean to me?
3.  Integration – What will I do with what I accomplished and learned?

The summation to the service learning event is reflection; this is the key to validate such a service learning experience. 

Upon returning to the classroom to reflect on the experience, the cadets shared their stories.  LTC (Ret) Ramirez selected the first cadet to speak.  Once the initial cadet finished their presentation of reflection, they had the opportunity to pick from among the group to share their story.  Most all the group was inspired as each cadet spoke with passion and confidence of their interaction with our wounded veterans.

“I had a sense of pride and happiness and sadness while there.  It meant a lot to me to go and to hear the stories, and to also make people happy," said Cadet 2LT Daniel Chambers on his analysis. "Knowing that I may or may not have been someone’s family for the means a tremendously, large, amount to me.”

"This amazing experience meant so much to me in many ways in more than one occasion.  Last year was my first time going to Audie Murphy VA Hospital, and since this is my second year going as a senior, I felt that I received more of a connective sense to pay more attention," said Cadet Major Robert Martinez. "The compelling experiences that make me appreciate what our military does for our country inspired a flame in me to always strive and work hard for greatness.  Knowing what each veteran gave up and still being thankful confirmed my attitude for the better.” 

The class spent two and a half hours listening to one another’s presentation.  There was laughter, giggles, sorrow, and heartache among those who shared their experience.  All agreed that it was a phenomenal event and were already talking about the next service learning opportunity.

Posted on February 21, 2014