Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
by George Frasher
You couldn't really call the news item "world shattering," but it
almost shook me right off the Back Porch when I read that DeRidder
High School was planning to discontinue the Junior Reserve Officers
Training Corps (JROTC) program. One might expect something like this
in Hyannis Port or some place like that, but not in DeRidder.
When I first read the article it indicated the Beauregard Parish
School Board was planning the move. But a correction in a later
edition indicated that the move was actually an administration plan
and even came as a surprise to board members.
I have noticed a trend over the years of professional educators being
For instance, college officials refuse to allow Armed Force
recruiters on campus to talk to future graduates. They let oil
company recruiters representing an interest that makes the Jesse
James gang look like punks who robbed penny peanut machines when it
comes to robbing the public.
They openly support programs that let and even abet rich professional
sports teams solicit personnel even though only one in ten thousand
students will ever earn a penny as a pro athlete. But letting
somebody talk to students about joining the Army or any branch of
Armed Forces is a no-no of the first magnitude. Back in the Vietnam
era college officials gave into the draft dodgers and ended ROTC
student requirements which instituted in 1862 as a requirement for
the establishment of Land Grant colleges.
DeRidder, like Leesville, owes much of its economic base to the Army.
Back in the early 1990s when it was announced that Fort Polk would be
the new home of the Joint Army Training Center it meant that many new
people, both military and civilian, would be coming to the area.
Large delegations from DeRidder and Leesville traveled to Little Rock
and Fort Smith in Arkansas and Tacoma, Wash. to greet and welcome
folks coming to our area and boast of our great support of the Army
over the past 60 years.I have a message for anyone ill-informed about
the value of JROTC to many young people.
The Army along with the other Armed Forces is going to continue to be
a mighty crucial element in American life and that's true regardless
of who is elected President this November. Along with that, far more
high school students will serve in the military than will ever see
any action in Major League Baseball, the NFL or the NBA.
JROTC is of vast importance to young men and women entering the Army.
Those who complete the program enter the Army at a higher rank. Those
of us old vets, especially from the Korean War, can recall how long
we had to sweat to get that first stripe, let alone the second and
third and the rockers.
There is also big advantages for young people who join the Army for
one or two hitches instead of as a career. The present cost of
college is simply out of the reach for a large number of young
people. By serving a few years in the Army a young person can earn
considerable financial credit for a later college career.
Those not aiming at college gain experience in various trades so they
often can obtain better civilian jobs.One of the arguments for
discontinuing the JROTC that some have told me is the DeRidder
administer has used for discontinuing it is that they can't get the
proper instructors. The program requires a retired commissioned
officer and retired NCO as instructors.
I refuse to believe that there are no such individuals available in DeRidder.
There are no openings for new schools to start JROTC programs and I'm
told that well over 200 high schools are waiting to offer the
program. The only hope they have is one when one of the schools
currently with JROTC drops the program. So if DeRidder gets rid of
its JROTC program in July, it's gone forever. Dropping the program
would be a terrible mistake for both the community and the students.
The citizens of DeRidder should insist the school board override the
administration on this.
From everything I have observed, the JROTC program in Leesville is
operating in great shape.
Is Leesville a better Army town than DeRidder?
What percent of active duty Army officers earned their commission
through the college ROTC program? Answer to last question. On Sept.
23, 1908 the Chicago Cubs were playing the Giants in New York. With
the scored tied at 1-1 a walk-off single score what appeared to be
the winning run in the bottom of the 9th. Fred Merkle, a 19-year-old
rookie, had been the runner on first but when he saw the single he
went to the clubhouse without touching second. Cub Frank Evers saw
this, called for the ball and tagged second for the force out,
canceling the run. The tie let the Cubs win the pennant over the Giants.
George Frasher is an independent columnist and a retired News-Leader editor.