While Veterans Day isn’t until Monday, the students of Conroe Independent School District invited the community to honor our nation’s veterans a few days early with a special ceremony on Friday at the Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah.
Despite the cold temperatures and consistent rain, members of CISD’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps performed a traditional military pass in review parade, after guest speaker retired Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer addressed the event attendees.
Hummer retired from active duty in 2015 after he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970. He currently serves as the Senior Fellow to the National Defense University and lives with his wife in The Woodlands.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful Marine Corps day,” Hummer joked with the gathered crowd, huddled under umbrellas and blankets. “We are amphibious by nature, us and the Navy.”
Hummer’s message to those gathered was a reminder of the rights Americans are guaranteed, and those who fought for them, quoting another soldier.
“It’s the veteran, not the preacher, that has given us the freedom of religion. It is the veteran, not the journalist, that has given us the freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet, that’s given us the freedom of speech. It’s the veteran, not the campus organizer, that’s given us the freedom to assemble. It’s the veteran, not the lawyer, that’s given us the right to a fair trial,” he told the crowd. “It’s the veteran, not the politician, that’s given us the right to vote.”
Because of the weather, some last minute changes had to be made in the interest of safety and security. Parts of the event that had been scheduled were canceled, and some of the younger students from the district that were supposed to be in attendance were not. Last year’s event was also impacted by weather, and was eventually canceled due to severe thunderstorms.
For Battalion Executive Officer and Cadet Maj. Madison Alvarado, a Conroe High School senior who led the ceremony and delivered a prayer for veterans and active military, adapting to the weather was only part of her event prep. This was her first time speaking in front of a large crowd and she was a little nervous, but her only missteps came from having to read her speech between the rain drops.
“Yesterday we came to practice and we understood the delay from the microphone, so I had to adjust to that a little bit because it was weird hearing my voice three seconds later,” she said. “Today, since it was raining so hard, and cold, we had to adjust and make some cuts to the script. Just doing all that made me realize that not everything is going to go perfectly as planned. I think it was a really good experience for me to learn how to cope with that.”
Joining JROTC has been one of the most important experiences of her life, she said, and helped to shape who she is today. Freshman year she was shy and had trouble talking to people, today she’s giving speeches in front of her fellow ROTC officers and members of the community. Alvarado has been a part of JROTC since her freshman year at Conroe High School and plans to continue her service after graduation.
“After I graduate I plan on going to the University of Chicago,” she said. “After that, I want to go into the Army and get a law degree through that.”
To the veterans who have served, she had this message to share.
“To veterans, I would like to thank them for all the things that they’ve done for us and how they’ve benefited our lives,” she said. “I really appreciate that they found the courage to do what they did.”
CISD has nearly 700 students in the JROTC program across the district. At Fridays event the students represented the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.