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Military vets feted at high school ROTC luncheon

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Roger Loughrey was one of many young people whose military draft numbers was called in the late 1960's, but he decided to voluntarily enlist in the Army so he could have some control over where he would be stationed.

Loughrey had several friends who were sent to Vietnam, but he was sent to Germany during the period. He even managed to avoid reassignments that pulled troops from Europe to Vietnam.

Loughrey was one of seven Morrow High School teachers honored for their military service at a Veteran's Day luncheon hosted by the school's Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets.

"When you've been to another place, you learn to appreciate the freedoms you have," said Loughrey. "We owe our veterans, [who] really sacrificed to make sure we have those freedoms."

As the teachers arrived for the luncheon, they were greeted by two lines of cadets. Each cadet was waving a small American flag, welcoming the veterans to the luncheon. The luncheon included turkey, cranberry sauce and cupcakes adorned with white icing, featuring red and blue sprinkles on top.

In addition to Loughrey, other attending veterans were: Roger McFarquhar, Tarquiann Bates, Raymond West, Lt. Col. Charley James, Tech Sgt. Charles Thomison, and Master Sgt. Sandi Williams. Overall, there are 14 teachers, who are military veterans at Morrow, but not all of them could attend the luncheon, according to James.

Everything about the luncheon, from the types of foods served, to the welcome for the teachers, was planned by the cadets.

"We want to recognize people who served in the military, and we have some former cadets who are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, so we want to honor them as well," said Cadet Lt. Col. Kandis Banks, 18, who oversaw the planning for the luncheon.

Cadet Col. Orlando Lewis, 18, the unit commander for Morrow's ROTC unit, said veterans at Morrow have taught the cadets about integrity and responsibility.

"They helped us become better citizens," said Lewis. "The examples they set makes us want to join the military," he added. "To serve our country," Banks said as she finished Lewis' sentence.

Instructor McFarquhar, who served in the Army from 1999-2003 and spent six months in Afghanistan, said he was appreciative of the luncheon and the efforts to remember service men and women.

"I was fortunate to come back [from Afghanistan] alive, and it's heartwarming that one's service is appreciated," McFarquhar said.

Meanwhile, West, who served in the army from 1977-2000, said he was impressed by the cadets. "Veteran's Day is a time to set aside and give thanks for those who have gone before us to protect our freedoms, and those who are still over there [in Iraq and Afghanistan]," West said.

The cadets are still doing work to support service men and women. Cadet Lt.. Col. J'Niea Flounory, 17, is leading an annual effort to collect everyday supplies, such as baby wipes, Gatorade mix and snack foods for former cadets, who are now serving oversees. There are actually two collection dives -- one for Thanksgiving, and another for Christmas.

Flounory said the goal is to collect enough supplies to send 40 gift boxes to the troops for Thanksgiving, and another 40 at Christmas. The cutoff date to donate supplies for Thanksgiving is Nov. 17, and the cutoff date for the Christmas boxes is Dec. 20.

The cadets also are seeking donations to help cover postage expenses to offset the cost of sending the packages oversees.

"Service before self, that's our motto," said Flounory. "We're doing this as a service to the troops. We're putting their needs ahead of our own needs."

Anyone interested in making a donation, can contact Morrow's ROTC department at (404) 362-3865.