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Members of the Rome High School Air Force Jr. ROTC were joined by distinguished guests at the Coosa Country Club to share a meal and a night of dancing under crystal chandeliers during their annual RHS Military Ball.

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Last school year was cut short due to the pandemic, so this year’s cadets soaked in every moment of an evening filled with tradition and reverence for the men and women who stand guard for our freedoms. Superintendent Louis Byars, along with Col. Seaborn Whatley, MSgt. Keith Thrash, and members of Rome High School’s administrative faculty members, watched cadets show what they have learned about a formal dinner. Male students wore their dress uniforms and the ladies dressed in elaborate ball gowns to share a white tablecloth dinner.

After greeting guests, the cadets welcomed the room and lead all in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem.

Following toasts honoring the President, U.S. Military leadership, public officials and school administrators, the cadets told the story of a table reserved for POW-MIA service people. Set just outside of the main dinning area was a place setting for military personnel still missing in action or held as prisoners of war. Col. Whatley said that part of what he hopes to pass on to his students is acknowledgment of those who pay the ultimate price to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

“Our Rome High School Military Ball is one of our keystone events,” Col. Whatley said. “As part of our leadership program, MSgt. Thrash does a really good job of teaching them how to work in a formal setting. We had to modify our night due to COVID restrictions, but we usually have a receiving line where we allow our cadets to practice greeting others and properly introducing their guests. One of the most important parts of our night with the cadets is our POW-MIA table. We feel that it is important to remind everyone of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and the sacrifices of their family members. We have not had many POWs since the Vietnam War, but we have certainly had service people who are missing in action and killed in action. So, it is important that we take the time to reflect on what that means for us and for our country.”

Col. Whatley went on to say that most American families know a person, or a family, connected to the military. If he can pass on one lesson to his students, he wants them to know that freedom sometimes comes with a price and they should never miss an opportunity to acknowledge those who fight for freedom.

Superintendent Louis Byars was the keynote speaker for the evening. He spoke about his childhood and how becoming a member of the armed forces had a profound impact on his personal and professional life.

After dinner and dessert, all took to the dance floor in celebration of the ball. Educators arranged a live DJ for the entertainment.

“Our AFJROTC program followed the same format of a military ball held for active-duty service members,” Byars said. “All of the protocols and ceremonies that we observed tonight are right in line of what students can expect if they choose to join the U.S. military. For example, when we celebrate the birth of our branches of the military the oldest and youngest members will cut the cake. That is exactly what we saw tonight. This experience is great for our students and we know that many of them will not join the military. But our JROTC program teaches them to be leaders and to be good citizens. To watch them here tonight was truly an honor.”

“In the end, this is meant to be a fun event for us,” added Col. Whatley. “Our students had a great time, and they enjoyed the club atmosphere. We want to thank the Coosa Country Club for hosting us. We would also like to thank Mr. Byars and the school administration for allowing us to have our military ball this year. We kept the group small because we are living in very questionable times. The RHS Military Ball is an important part of our curriculum, and we are thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of our kids and our armed forces.”

The Georgia Virtue
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