VALLEY, Ala. (11/14/2011) - Jim Darden is a big man on campus. Or
at least he was Nov. 10.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Darden speaks to the students and
faculty at Beulah High School in Valley, Ala., Nov. 10, 2011. Darden
was the guest speaker, and among 25 other veterans that were
honored, at Beulah's annual Veterans Day observance. A resident of
Birmingham, Darden is a U.S. Army Reserve ambassador for the state
of Alabama. Photo by Gail Anderson
That's when Darden, a retired major general, was honored along with
about 25 other community veterans at a Veterans Day observance held
at Beulah High School here.
Darden is not only a veteran of
several wars, but his current position as a U.S. Army Reserve
Ambassador for the state of Alabama makes him more than qualified to
speak as a subject matter expert and is often the reason he is
sought to speak at public venues.
An Alabamian himself,
Darden is always more than happy to speak at community events that
educate audiences about the Army, the Army Reserve and the
sacrifices that men and women in all branches of today's armed
forces are making, for the sake of their freedom.
Speaking to an assembly of 750 junior and senior high
school students and faculty on the day before Veterans Day,
Darden told the audience that there were three main "take
aways" that he wanted to impart on them.
"I want you
to know what it means to be a military person," said Darden.
"I want you to know about those ordinary people doing extra
ordinary things in the defense of this country and I want
you to know that the armed forces does not send individuals
into war - we send families," Darden said.
went on to depict the everyday lives of soldiers, sailors,
airmen and Marines to a crowd that seemed to be in awe of
the daily activities and lives of those who had either
served in wars past, or are currently serving this country.
Many were either unaware or had simply forgotten what it
takes to be a uniformed service member.
examples like Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Sgt.
Leroy Petry who lost his right hand while trying to save his
comrades from an enemy grenade that had been tossed in
amongst his fellow soldiers and a19-year old farm boy, Pfc.
Tom Wilson, who died in the arms of a combat medic after
taking several direct rounds from the weapon of an Afghan
"You see," said Darden, "when you sign up
and take your oath of office, you're writing a metaphorical
check to the government - up to, and including, your life.
That's a pretty strong statement, that's a pretty strong
commitment." Pointing to the veterans in the audience,
Darden then said "that's what these men and women, here,
have done - that's what veterans do."
thanking everyone in attendance for their participation in
the Veterans Day observance, Darden concluded his comments
by explaining his final point, about sending families off to
war. He said "Many of you here today have a loved one that
has served in the military," said Darden. "Sometimes, when
we go to war, it is easier on us [as a service member] than
it is on the family. We're pretty well occupied, we know
what we're in there for, but for the loved ones that are
left behind, it's often far more difficult. But that
soldier, sailor, airman or Marine takes your love with them
and puts it on, as an extra piece of body armor, to know why
they're there, and what they're fighting for -- you, and
your future - so you see, just Soldiers don't go to war, we
all go to war."
Darden and the veterans present, all,
then received a two minute standing ovation from the faculty
Beulah's Veterans Day observance and
Darden's participation was arranged by the Montgomery
Recruiting Company commander, Capt. Vershunda Jones, who met
Darden at the Prattville, Ala., Army recruiting center last
"We were having a Center of Influence event
here at the recruiting station and I got to meet Mr. Oren,
Beulah's assistant principal, and he was telling me about
the veterans program that they have there each year asked me
how I could assist in making it better, so I called Darden
and asked him to speak at this event, and right away, he
jumped at the opportunity," said Jones.
employed two of her finest leaders, Sgt. 1st Class
Christopher Fariss and Sgt. 1st Class Frederick Burns to
help her make the Veterans Day observance a success for the
school and the community.
Fariss is a high school
graduate from a neighboring community who asked the Army to
send him back to his hometown to work in the Valley, Ala.,
area, so he was excited about getting the chance to
participate in Beulah's Veterans Day program.
been working with the guidance counselors and some of the
other staff here at Beulah and they invited me and my fellow
recruiters to come out, participate in the program and to
sit with and help some of the other local veterans," said
Fariss. "I think this was an outstanding program and I'm
very glad to see that our communities and our high school is
very, very supportive of the military and will go out of
their way to set up a program and a reception like they've
Sgt. 1st Class Burns, center commander
of the neighboring Auburn, Ala., recruiting station, was
also happy with how the program went.
was outstanding. It was the best high school Veterans Day
programs I've seen in the five years I've been in Army
recruiting and the one thing I took away from today was how
Darden stressed to the kids that freedom is not free," said
Burns. "I would do this (participate in Beulah's Veterans
Day observance) all over again, without skipping a beat!, "
During a reception for all veterans, held
in the school's basement immediately following the program,
Jones said there are already plans underway to ask Darden to
return to Beulah next year and make the program even better
By Gail Anderson
81st Regional Support Command
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