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Oakland JROTC students help veteran celebrate 100th birthday

September 11, 2017

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

It’s not simply a coincidence that Oakland High School seniors Kayleigh Reeves and Jared Fults are patriotic.

Yes, the athletic department at Oakland are known as the Patriots.

But for the Reeves and Fults, patriotism is a civic duty.

When JROTC leaders Russell Rector and Michael Daniels received a message from the Alvin C. York Veterans Affairs Hospital in Murfreesboro telling them a man named Dr. Russell Myers — a retired captain in the U.S. Army — would be celebrating his 100th birthday, they immediately shared the news with the 210 cadets who represent Oakland.

For Reeves and Jared Fults, presenting Myers with a pair of birthday cards and another card thanking him for his service was a way to honor the century-old veteran.

“We filled out (the cards) and told him how thankful we were for his service,” Reeves said, “and how we were honored to celebrate this day with him.”

Fults added, “It gave us an opportunity to reach out to our community, our veterans, and that’s what we love to do. … It’s about being part of something that is bigger than ourselves.”

Oakland High School Principal Bill Spurlock is especially proud of the pair.

And with good reason.

“This is the type of respect and gratitude that is rarely seen these days,” Spurlock wrote in a letter to faculty and staff. “Our students sought out the opportunity to make this an extra special day for him. This is what it means to be a true Patriot.”

After hearing about their good deed, Oakland teacher Paula White reached out to the students.

“How terrific,” she wrote in an email. “Thank you for your commitment to service and expressed kindness to this very special veteran.”

She added, “May your lives be blessed as you continue to grow in your service. Thank you from a citizen who is grateful to our service persons and veterans, who sacrifice to keep us ‘free.’”

Myers, who has become blind in his later years, was in the U.S. Army during WWII and also served two years in Guam as a doctor.

He was honorably discharged from the Army as a captain.

Reeves was personally inspired by Myers’ story.

“I’m actually going to be a doctor when I grow up,” said Reeves, who plans to attend Sewanee: The University of the South as an undergraduate student and then medical school at Duke University. “I want to help people like him.”

She would like to then intern at a VA hospital.

It’s experiences like this that led Reeves and Fults, who intends to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in pursuit of becoming a pilot, to join the JROTC.

“It was truly a remarkable experience,” added Reeves, “and I’m grateful we could participate.”

Fults added, “Just being in that environment with all those people and all those veterans made me feel welcomed.”