By Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet CommandJanuary 5, 2012
SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 5, 2012) -- Touring the Center for the Intrepid, the medical center where wounded Soldiers of America's Army receive critical physical rehabilitation, All-American Bowl VIPs found themselves taken aback by what they witnessed.
They remarked about the efficiency of the facility and its in-house prosthetic-making operation. They praised the quality of care provided.
What struck Margaret Moran as much as anything were the faces of the injured.
"They're so young," said Moran, the national president for the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Observations such as that are what this week's VIP visit to the All-American Bowl and San Antonio is all about: to dispel misconceptions and educate people in positions to influence others about the Army by giving them an in-depth look at how it functions and creating face-to-face dialogue between them and senior Army leaders.
Cadet Command is hosting 30 people from across the country, allowing them to participate in activities such as tandem jumps with the famed Golden Knights and firing shotguns with the Army Marksmanship Unit. But the focal point of the visit is to teach them about widespread opportunities for America's youth to serve in uniform, and specifically how to do so through ROTC.
The United States Army Recruiting Command and the U.S. Army Reserve are hosting similar VIP groups as well.
The intent is to team with the visitors for them to become advocates for the Army and ROTC back home, being able to effectively articulate the opportunities available to those willing and able to serve. Among Cadet Command's VIPs are business people, educators and civic officials -- people who wield influence in their communities and nationally.
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Cadet Command's commanding general, solicited their assistance during a reception Wednesday night to help present the Army as a viable option to youth seeking lifelong personal and professional opportunities and to strengthen the defense of the nation.
"We can't do it by ourselves," he said.
Taking aim Thursday at clay targets with shotguns at the San Antonio Rifle Club, several of Cadet Command's VIPs had taken up the challenge and were already devising ways to spread the word.
David Batie, of EMC Corp. and 100 Black Men of America in Atlanta, wants to look at developing a boot camp of sorts for high school juniors to instill in them discipline and structure as they enter their senior years and establish career paths. He also wants to foster dialogue with local parents to ensure they know about opportunities available to their children either through an enlistment or through ROTC.
Batie said what he has seen and done so far this week has been eye-opening, reinforcing aspects of the Army he knew and enlightening him on areas he knew little or nothing about.
"Whatever you want to be in life, you can be in the Army," Batie said. "Young people are doing great stuff. But we don't do enough talking about it. They're defending our country, and we don't know it."
Thursday also marked the first time Batie has ever shot a firearm. He was exhilarated after the experience.
Batie owns rifles that belonged to his father, but has never used them. That might soon change.
"They've just been collecting dust," he said. "At least, I know what to do with them. It's great to learn how to shoot and do it the right way."
For Endon Anderson, the shoot reignited an interest to serve. An ROTC grad who spent four years as a commissioned platoon leader and executive officer in the late-1980s, she left the Army as the Berlin Wall tumbled and the Cold War ended. The time of world change led Anderson to pursue change in her own life, deciding to attain a graduate degree and become a professor.
She went into the corporate world, eventually getting her degree and teaching on the side as she serves now as senior director of field sales for Chicago-based Urban Ministries Inc., an African American Christian publishing and communications company with national reach.
Anderson is the only member of her office with prior military experience. Her co-workers know some about her past, but Anderson doesn't talk about it.
"Not that I'm trying to hide it," Anderson said. "It just doesn't come up."
Army leaders have said it's people like Anderson, who are veterans, with whom they see missed opportunities to tell the Army story by telling their own story.
Anderson is proud of her service, proud to have defended her country and proud to have learned lessons while in uniform that have shaped her life. Firing the shotguns Thursday rekindled her enthusiasm to serve, saying the only regret she had about her time in the Army was that she didn't stay longer.
Her visit to the All-American Bowl will change her approach when she heads home, leading her to share her military experience, whether it be in the office, attending workshops or promoting her organization's publications. She'll be showing pictures people took this week of her in action, too.
Keeping America's Army strong stems from awareness, Anderson said.
"I'm very much on fire for this," she said. "It's one of the best things you can do for your life.
"When you hear about the Army on the news, you hear a lot about casualties and other problems. You don't hear a lot of the day-to-day stories and how it changed (Soldiers') lives. You don't hear that it's a great option."