AFROTC cadets organize fallen veteran tributes

By Rob Bradfield
Staff writer

Two Air Force ROTC cadets have found a new way to honor fallen Baylor alumni.

Westlake Village, Calif., junior Brendan Djernes and Williamsboro, Miss., junior Jared Strickland have purchased about 70 small American flags to place around the lampposts across campus with plaques honoring Baylor alumni that fell in the line of duty.

The two Baylor Air Force ROTC cadets have taken it upon themselves to honor these alumni, whose memorials often go unnoticed.

“A lot of students tend to walk by and are oblivious,” Djernes said. “We want people to recognize how many students have gone before them in the Armed Forces.”

Veterans at Baylor, a student organization recently founded by retired Lt. Col. Matt Pirko, Baylor AFROTC, and the Baylor Army ROTC will also be holding several events today to honor members of the Armed Forces.

Members of the three organizations began a 24-hour flag vigil at the Founders Mall flag pole Thursday night. Groups of four cadets and veterans will be standing at attention in 20-minute shifts from midnight Thursday until midnight tonight.

The Baylor Air Force ROTC has been honoring veterans since its establishment in 1948, and this year will be the first time they are joined by the other two groups in their vigil. Students and the public are invited to a brief ceremony honoring veterans and explaining Veterans Day that will precede the City of Waco parade.

The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Fountain Mall. The Baylor AFROTC will be providing a color guard. Veterans at Baylor has covered part of the mall with small American Flags.

For the military organizations at Baylor, honoring veterans goes past just one day a year.

Lt. Cl. Carl Wooten, AFROTC detachment commander and professor of aerospace studies, is in charge of instilling this value in cadets.

“The biggest thing we do is talk to them about being part of something bigger than themselves, and tying our service right now and our involvement in the military with those who have come before us,” Wooten said.

Wooten wants the Baylor community to know how many former and current students and faculty have served in the armed forces.

“There’s more of them than you might realize, although they may not be in uniform,” Wooten said.

According to Wooten, there are 119 students in the AFROTC and even more veteran undergraduates and faculty.