Four local high school students were honored for their good citizenship Thursday at the Tohopeka chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) meeting. Benjamin Russell’s Andrew Caldwell, Dadeville’s Kade Harkins, Horseshoe Bend’s Mary Rasbury and Reeltown’s Eryn Wells were named their schools’ Good Citizen Award recipients at the Tallapoosa County Board of Education
Students submitted applications and essays written in a two-hour limit at school with no references. The essays were on American heritage and the responsibility of preserving it.
“(The winners) are truly good citizens because they possess those qualities of dependability, leadership, service and patriotism,” Good Citizen Award chair Sharon Gaither said. “If you read and learn about these students there’s one thing that you will see and that is that it will restore your faith in today’s youth when you see the accomplishments that they have done already in their few short lives. They are self-motivated, they have commendable work ethics and they serve as great role models for their peers. “
Caldwell was given a second award as the overall winner for the county.
Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle honored the students and said the award brings the Tallapoosa County and Alexander City school systems together.
“This day recognizes students across Tallapoosa County,” Windle said. “That’s a good thing because sometimes we seem to be so focused on our own little world in a school system that we don’t take time to recognize that Tallapoosa County is a combination of schools ranging from Alex City all the way to Camp Hill in the east to Reeltown in the south.”
Windle thanked the DAR for teaching and emphasizing patriotism with the next generation.
“I don’t think that we’ve ever been in a time in the history of this country where recognizing patriotism, recognizing patriotic individuals, teaching young people what this country is founded on and where we are today and where this country needs to go (is as important),” Windle said. “We are teaching young people about this country and the importance of being a part of those Founding Fathers and those core principles this country is based on that this organization promotes that.”
Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) was the guest speaker and talked about his military career. Oliver wanted to be a pilot and originally joined the U.S. Army to fly.
Oliver transferred to the National Guard and attended flight school. He did a tour in Panama before teaching flying in Fort Rucker.
“Flight school was hard but I loved it so much and you know how you wake up one day and you look in the mirror and you know who you are,” Oliver said. “I was a pilot and liked it.”
Oliver did other jobs while in the reserves such as flying around the Gulf of Mexico and spent the last 15 years of his career in an air ambulance.
“All the time I was doing that I was in the Army reserve and still would have short mobilizations come up where you would stay there for a month or two,” Oliver said. “It was a unique time in the history of this country.”
Oliver comes from a family of military personnel including his father serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and one of his daughters in the Air National Guard. About 1% of U.S. citizens are involved in the military somehow, Oliver said.
Oliver was also an inspector general during his time in the military.
“(The inspector general) is the eyes and ears and conscience of the commander,” Oliver said. “That’s a division. That’s a whole lot of folks.”
He then told a story about Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who was the first inspector general for the Continental Army. Benjamin Franklin was sent to Europe by George Washington to find an inspector general and Franklin came back with von Steuben.
“To this day you look at our drill ceremony book for the Army, every order of march, every order of battle is from Baron von Steuben,” Oliver said. “If you want to thank someone for where we are today it’s this Prussian captain who was in a bar bumped into Ben Franklin. He’s the reason the Continental Army succeeded.”