JROTC Freshman Raleigh Barfield and SGA President Olivia Clack
A freshman JROTC student and a decorated combat veteran shared the spotlight at a Veteran’s Day ceremony at Merritt Island High School on Friday. Also on hand as dignitaries were veterans from the high school’s faculty and from the community.
Freshman Raleigh Barfield was honored with the reading of his essay “This I Believe,” which won a school-wide writing contest. Also, Col. Danny McKnight, a local hero who participated in the mission in Somalia that spawned the movie “Black Hawk Down,” spoke.
Barfield’s essay recounted when he found out as a little boy that his father would be called into active duty in Iraq in 2003. He wrote of the difficulties that he and his family had.
“As the hours turned to days, then into months, and into years, I started to pray nightly that no harm came to my father and his fellow soldiers. Some days I would look out my window and wonder if my father was staring at the moon just like I was.”
The essay concluded by Barfield thanking “hard working soldiers” for serving the country.
McKnight told the students of his recent encounter with a wounded soldier in Afghanistan. He noted that after the young soldier came home – with both legs amputated and one arm seriously injured – he sent McKnight a video of himself doing one-arm push-ups.
“He wanted to know if I could do them,” McKnight said chuckling. “Bo is my hero.”
Merritt Island principal Gary Shiffrin noted that “this is the only time in the school year when the entire student body is gathered together.”
Shiffrin – whose son serves in the US Air Force – said to the students, “If not for the sacrifice of our service people, education at Merritt Island might not exist. There’s no telling if we might be free or living with a dictator with a different agenda.”
The ceremony also included the entire JROTC unit, patriotic songs from the MIHS Band, and singing from the MIHS Chorus.
MIHS Principal Gary Shiffrin presents a Mustang statue to Col. McKnight