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For some people, “call of duty” is a video game. For some churches, it is a pun regarding those who serve the church in one way or another. On Nov. 11, men and women for whom those three words are a way of life were honored.
Prior to the ceremony events at the VFW, the Elks Lodge served breakfast to not only veterans, but the public, as well. They did this last year and will do so again next year.
At about 9:30 a.m., approximately 60 people trickled into the VFW. As the patrons took their seats, the pianist began playing a few bars of various patriotic songs. As he did so, the conversation faded to a slight murmur.
It stopped entirely when Los Alamos High School NJROTC instructor Gunnery Sgt. Bret Painter walked across the front of the crowd. He was checking in with each of the cadets who were participating in the ceremony.
The ceremony was opened with a rifle salute. NJROTC cadets Brandon Frank, Rachel Barthell, Thomas Wood, Riki Ringquist, Richard Whittemore and Jeremy Goettee handled the seven rifles used for the salute. As the sharp crack of their report faded away, the Master of Ceremonies Chad Hanawalt began speaking.
Following Hanawalt’s talk, the colors were presented. The color guard consisted of cadets Cory Aslin, Jodi Cull-Host (commanding), Kyle Partin and Victoria Hypes. Many community organizations supplied their own color guards, all of which consisted of one person holding a flag, each contributing to the dedication of this day to the armed forces.
Cadet Analicia Ronquillo commanded these folks. Representatives of the Boy and Girl Scouts of America led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Once they finished, they filed back to end of the stage and an honor guard consisting of cadets Alan Jiang and Gianna Maggoire raised the flag. Lauren Partin, the younger sister of cadet Kyle Partin, sang the “National Anthem.”
As a guest speaker, the VFW brought in retired Air Force Col. John Killeen. His speech was definitely not what one would expect. Rather than spend a lot of time discussing the heroism of past veterans, Killeen spent a significant amount of time discussing the importance of our current and future armed forces to not only the U.S., but the world.
After Killeen finished, the microphone was opened to the public. Many people got up to share their thoughts on the service that veterans have given to the country. One of the speakers was Lcpl. Justin Trujillo. He was a graduate of LAHS, had been a prominent member of NJROTC, graduated in 2010 and enlisted in the Marines. He discussed how ROTC changed his life.
When the public finished speaking, the microphone was given to Painter, (known affectionately as Gunny), who talked about the NJROTC program. Then, he announced that Ronquillo had been promoted from cadet chief petty officer to cadet senior chief petty officer. Lt. Comm. Wesley Shumaker, the senior Naval Science instructor, pinned the new rank insignia on her uniform.
After Painter finished talking, Lauren Partin sang “God Bless America,” accompanied by Jeff Kolski on the piano.
Finally, the same seven cadets once again shot the rifles. This time, they did so three times over, yielding a 21-gun salute to every man and woman, past, present, or future, who was willing to put their life on the line defending America. Cadet Micah Church played “Taps” on his trumpet and the audience dispersed.