Last week, Wylie High School band, cheer, pacesetters, and AFJROTC celebrated “Senior Night” with students and families. Recognizing these students is incredible, and the moments we share with our families are priceless. Pictures of seniors were taken and celebrated, necks were hugged, and smiles were beaming as the families left the field and students began their journey back to their places for the football game that was about to commence. I noticed the Lead Instructor, Lt. Colonel Darren James leaving with me.
I asked Col. James how he was doing, and he was beaming. His expression reflected a feeling of love and gratitude for the kids in his care and the annual ritual he had just experienced. How do I know this? He shared this story with me:
Celebration comes in different ways, and my celebration came back during Senior night with our AFJROTC Cadets. I finally celebrated with our Cadets, and it feels like this was God’s way of giving back to me! Unfortunately, I did not get to experience my three kids’ Senior night because of deployments and/or temporary duty away from my family during a 27.5-year military career. The Lord puts people in our paths for reasons we sometimes cannot explain. I believe “his will” pulled me and Karen and SMSgt Larry Lewis and his wife Heidi (26-year military career) to Wylie High together to help make our Wylie community a better place and for these Cadets to learn what it means to serve.
I was temporarily displaced from my family for a few weeks during my Daughter’s Senior night for Soccer, I was deployed to Afghanistan for my Son Zachary’s entire Senior year, and then a few years later I was displaced from my family for 2.5 years for my younger son Caleb’s Senior night for Football. Time that my family and I will never get back, but our family is resilient, and they knew I was committed to a higher calling of protecting the freedoms our citizens cherish so deeply today. We always made these decisions as a team and sacrificed “our time” away from each other for the good of others. Though we moved 14 times in 27.5 years of service to our country, we would all do it again if needed. Our family’s guiding principles are: “Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do” and believe we are a better family because of our devotion to serving others. Our hearts (Karen’s and mine) are full of appreciation and happiness that we get to spend time with our JROTC Cadets, SMSgt Larry Lewis and his wife Heidi, and this Wylie family.
A big part of the Wylie Way is hiring teachers who love kids and focus on building a family in their classrooms. Colonel James is a shining example of this focus, and we are grateful for him and his love for the kids in his care. His story is also a great reminder of the sacrifice of the men and women that serve in the United States Armed Forces. Unfortunately, he missed many of these important moments we as parents enjoy protecting us and our freedom. Thank you for your love for our students, Colonel James; thank you for your sacrifice.
On November 11th of each year, Wylie ISD pays tribute to American veterans who served their country during war or peacetime with a Veterans Day Celebration, led by the AFJROTC from both Wylie High School and Wylie East High School.
Students fill the stands with veterans who bravely served our country to celebrate those who sacrificed so much. We encourage you to join us at Wylie Stadium, beginning at 10:40, and honor these amazing folks. If you cannot attend, you are welcome to celebrate with us on the world wide web.
In addition to honoring those in the stands and on the field, we take great pride in honoring those who served our country, and like Col. James, serve our students. Would you please join me in celebrating the following veterans that are now Wylie ISD employees?
Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your love, care, and support of our students and the families we serve. You are, in every way, the Wylie Way! Happy Veterans Day, Everyone!