By Benjamin Cohn
Leicester – Before Friday night’s conference match between the Warriors and the visiting Rams, dozens of Erwin High NJROTC cadets took the field in a vibrant, triumphant show of patriotism in dedication to service members everywhere.
Chief of Erwin High’s NJROTC program, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Third Grade Tony Gutierrez spoke to the Leader in a telephone interview and provided background information about the event.
“Every year we have an armed forces night to honor all of past, present and future service members. We try and celebrate all the branches, [not just Army]. All those kids that were on the field are my students at Erwin High School. We have the largest program in Western North Carolina. We average about 150-175 every semester. Most programs within the county have probably 100 a year, and we are over 300 [per year],” said Gutierrez.
“They were all ROTC cadets. Each cadet, we went out and purchased or borrowed the different branches. We had a Marine flag with a Marine uniform. We had a Navy uniform with a Navy flag. Every branch was represented with a flag and a uniform. We put all 50 state flags out. 50 of my kids were out there holding those flags,” he continued.
“We had the prisoner of war POW/MIA flag and the Erwin school JROTC flag, also. I think there were 59 flags in total. It was awesome! My kids performed excellently. I’m so proud of them. We try to do something different every year. Last year, we brought the flag that they used at Camping World. It’s a 90-foot flag. That’s what we did last year.
How hard was the event to pull off?
“Not hard at all. I had Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Richard Carland and First Sergeant (ret.) Chad Prevatte. They are fellow instructors here at the school. Everybody has their part. I pretty much just watch [laughs, jokingly].
“We are very grateful to our school for giving us the opportunity to showcase our kids. It’s all about our kids. I want them to go out there and have pride. The violinist is an actual cadet, Jarrod Waytan.”