Students get civics lessons while area vets get honored

First Posted: 4/21/2011

PEMBROKE — Thanks to Robeson County government officials and several area veterans, Purnell Swett High School seniors now have a better idea of what government at the county level is all about.

During a government awareness presentation, county officials and county department heads spoke about the importance of county government and how county government operates. As part of the presentation, seven area military veterans received certificates of appreciation for service to their country.

Members of Purnell Swett High Schools’s ROTC, and Miss Lumbee, Brandi Scott, also participated in the program that lasted about 45 minutes.

“County commissioners and our county staff are going to make this same presentation at all of our high schools,” said Noah Woods, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners. “It’s all about educating our citizens about county government, and recognizing our veterans and their families.”

Woods said that informing the public about county government and recognizing veterans and their families for service to their country are initiatives of the current president of the National Association of Counties, Glen Whitley. Woods is a member of the association’s national board of directors.

Commissioner Raymond Cummings told the students that it is important that they “carry out their responsibilities” as U.S. citizens.

“Education is surely the key. … You can go as far as you want in life based on your education and desires,” Cummings said.

County department heads speaking to students during Wednesday’s program included: Rudy Paul, director of Parks and Recreation; Al Grimsley, director of Public Works; and Angela Locklear, the county’s Wellness director. Each briefly outlined their department’s role in the county.

Chris Oxendine, the county’s director for Veterans Affairs, said that there are more than 9,000 veterans in Robeson County.

‘Without them serving our country, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today,” he said.

The seven county veterans recognized during the program were: The Rev. Coolidge Cummings; James A. Jones; Rudy Locklear; William L. Oxendine; Willie Mitchell; John Alford; and James Leonard Locklear. At least two of the veterans honored, Cummings and Jones, participated in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Jones, a former principal at Prospect School, addressed the students. He briefly told them about his experiences during World War II.

“Boys and girls, you can’t imagine standing and sleeping in foxholes where there is 10 to 15 inches of snow,” he said while referring to the Battle of the Bulge, which was fought in the Ardennes Mountain region of Belgium. “It was rough … but it was the Great and Almighty who stood with me each day. He was there in every battle. He was there with me in every foxhole.”

Chris Oxendine told the students that there are state scholarships available for the sons and daughters of veterans who wish to attend college.

“If you are the child of a veteran, you may qualify for one of these state scholarships,” he said.

The presentation appears to have caught the attention of some students, especially the recognition of veterans and comments by Jones.

“I liked hearing about all of the history,” said Kristen Lowry. “I didn’t know too much about it.”

“It inspired me,” Tanesha Hunt said. “I’m inspired by what they (veterans) did for our country.”

— Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at (910) 272-6117 or [email protected]

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