Recently, retired brigadier general Art Austin and I hosted the St. Bonaventure ROTC at Moonwinks restaurant in Cuba for an annual Movie and a Veteran Night.

The ROTC curriculum requires the cadets to do a field trip around the theme of battle analysis. A few years ago Gen. Austin worked with Lt. Col. Sean Coulter, the professor of military science, to bring the concept of Movie and a Vet Night to fruition. It really expands the classroom experience with the addition of area veterans, who are invited to attend and bring their real-world experience.

This year we had three veterans from all eras: Don Myers from the Vietnam era, Darrell Neal from the Desert Storm era and Sara Hillyard from the Iraqi Freedom era. The cadets were also provided a biography for Joe Leo, a Cuba resident from the World War II era (even though Joe was not in attendance), to give them an even wider range of experience to draw from.

It is always impressive to me to watch these young, soon-to-be second lieutenants interacting with their cadre, the veterans and Gen. Austin. This evening is a great way for them to learn and discuss battle analysis, training tactics and leadership as they watch excerpts from the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers.”

At the start of the evening, Lt. Col. Coulter asked all to introduce themselves and to say something profound about themselves. I think he was mostly trying to lighten the mood and add some levity, but what came to my mind was something I heard at a retirement party for one of Gen. Austin’s comrades. A speaker at that event reminded everyone that there are young men and women serving today, fighting for our freedom, who weren’t even born when 9/11 happened.

That is profound.

After participating in what is lovingly referred to by the Army as “Charm School,” I have learned part of being any Army officer’s spouse is to take an active role in events like these. I am proud to support the ROTC and our community of veterans in these types of events. They provide great avenues of mentorship for our young leaders and great avenues for sharing for veterans of all eras of service.

What a wonderful out-of-the-classroom teaching event. I look forward to the next one.

(Karen Austin, a “proud veteran supporter,” lives in Cuba.)

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