One of St. Paul’s School’s most active and well-respected organizations on campus is the Air Force Junior ROTC which is comprised of more than one hundred students from 8th to the 12th grade. The program, headed by Master Sergeant A.J. East, is most known for their heavy presence at the various sports events to present the flags and their extensive military education program. However, this year, the group wanted to show their dedication to military personnel, both retired and active, with a Veteran’s Day service for the entire school.
The focus of the program was to honor St. Paul’s veterans and active service men in addition to honoring the veterans from all around the country. Additionally, the assembly showed the efforts of civilians to support overseas troops in their preservation and defense of our country and way of life. In addition to the entire student body, St. Paul’s alumni veterans, active service members, and community armed forces advocates were invited to attend. Senior ROTC leader Ruston Keller opened the assembly with a flag presentation by four ROTC color guard officers and the National Anthem. Following the presentation, the Armed Forces Medley was played with Keller calling upon the various veterans in the audience to stand when their branch’s melody was played. With each new melody, Keller explained the history and intent of each of the branches to an enraptured student population.
In addition to educating and exposing the students to the branches and its numerous veterans in attendance, ROTC organizers also invited two community advocates to speak on their service work for the armed forces. Annette Hall, a retired Navy servicewoman spoke about their nonprofit, the Slidell Ladies for Liberty. Over ten years ago, the two women saw the need in the local community to provide care packages for local servicemen and women who were stationed overseas. Comprised of dedicated volunteers from all around the St. Tammany area, the group sends necessities such as toothpaste and toiletries as well as snacks ranging from candy to popular local brands such as Zapp’s potato chips and Tabasco hot sauce. The group was awarded the highest civilian award offered, the American Patriot Award from the National Guard, for their relentless dedication to our local overseas troops.
The students then had the privilege of hearing from Marine Sergeant Christian Guilbeau, an active serviceman who graduated from SPS prior to his time in the armed forces. His speech chronicled his time at the school while connecting it to his service time and what it has meant to him. Guilbeau was able to speak on what his time was like and advised the students to participate in the effort in any way they could, whether it be service, volunteering, or civilian work. His impassioned presentation led to rousing round of applause from the student body.