JROTC students support memorial

By Kayla Baugh Published October 8, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Mark Buffalo

Robert Morton of Searcy makes a donation at the Cabot High School Air Force JROTC’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument fundraiser booth. From left, Nathan Claunch, Brenon Brock and Kameron Evans tell football-game patrons about their cause.

— JROTC students at Cabot High School believe it is important to honor fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price to protect U.S. citizens’ freedoms, but the students also believe in supporting the family members who live with that loss.

That’s why JROTC members have set a goal and are dedicated to raising $15,000 to go toward building a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, scheduled to be built on the Arkansas state Capitol’s grounds next year.

Gold Star Families are relatives of United States Armed Forces members who died serving in a war.

Cadet Maj. Benjamin Silver and Cadet Lt. Col. Isaac Wolter are two Cabot High School seniors driven to make the monument a reality.

A booth is set up at home football games to raise money, Wolter said, and the students plan to branch out with other fundraising ideas in the near future.

Donations can be made online as well, and donating in CHS AFJROTC’s name will help the group reach its fundraising goal, he said.

Silver said students have raised about $500 so far, and every dollar raised will be doubled.

“The state is matching each dollar we raise, up to $50,000, from a [General Improvement Fund] grant,” he said.

Silver said the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation oversees the monuments, and the statewide goal is to raise $500,000 for the foundation.

“Hershell ‘Woody’ Williams came to [state] Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Sheridan) and asked if they could have this monument built, and a bill was passed,” Wolter explained. “They got permission, and now they just need the funding.”

The monument is scheduled to be built on Veterans Day of next year, Silver said, and will be the first monument of its kind to be placed on the grounds of a state Capitol.

The monument will feature a cutout of a soldier and the words ‘Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice’ on it.

“Right after the Veterans Day Parade, they will unveil [the monument],” he said. “That’s their plan.”

Silver said the ROTC unit in the state that raises the most money to go toward the monument will lead next year’s Veterans Day Parade.

“The memorial means a lot to many of us because a lot of us are from military families,” Wolter said.

Wolter is a member of a Gold Star Family, he said, as a result of losing his great-uncle in World War II.

“It means more being from a Gold Star Family; it just drives me to find different ways to raise money aside from just home games. To raise $15,000 by December, we’ll have to branch out to different things. One possible idea is car washes or small events,” Wolter said.

“The monuments give families a reminder that their loved ones aren’t forgotten, and their sacrifices still mean something,” Silver said.

Wolter said it means a lot to know that somebody is still thinking of his great-uncle, and he believes the monument will touch the many Gold Star Families living in the state.

The Cabot community itself consists of several military families, he said.

“It’s a family thing. My dad is in the Air Force, so I was raised with a military mindset,” Wolter said.

Most of the people in Cabot are friendly and open about the losses they have experienced and continue to heal from, Wolter said.

“I worked the table at a few games so far, and people will just come up and say, ‘I’m from a Gold Star Family; this means a lot,’” Wolter said.

Silver said he enjoys how the residents of Cabot come together throughout the year, from the Cabot Clean-Up to parades and fundraisers.

“Everybody is always helping someone out in this community, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived,” Silver said.

He said cadets also leave the booth to speak with people at home games, hand out pamphlets and educate people about their cause.

Many people will walk past a booth and not think twice about it, he said, but when the students actually explain the fundraiser to patrons, they tend to give.

Master Sgt. Matt Atkinson of Cabot High School said he loves the idea of having a monument on state Capitol grounds.

“I love the fact that our Cabot cadets are fundraising. It’s an excellent opportunity to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and the families who have paid for that,” he said.

Atkinson said the monument will be a good place for families to reflect and realize that they aren’t alone.

Lt. Col. Doug Haven said the monument will serve as a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives and those who were forced to live with that sacrifice.

Haven said he hopes to spread the word by reaching out to local community leaders.

“The soldier in the monument is a representation of their loved one who was lost,” Wolter said.

“These families have been through a lot, and they should be remembered.”

To make a donation to help build the monument, visit www.hwwmohfoundation.org/little_rock_ar.html or call Cabot High School at (501) 843-3562.

Checks can also be mailed to Gold Star Families Memorial, P.O. Box 5670, Jacksonville, AR 72028.

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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