May 3, 2015

Dixie High School AFJROTC Awards Night

At Dixie High School's AFJROTC annual awards program Friday night, May 1, Commandant D'Arcy Grisier of the Marine Corps League Detachment in St. George, presented certificates to two deserving cadets.  The Detachment also supplies the latest two names on the large plaque that hangs in the AFJROTC building on campus.  234 cadets with family and friends packed the auditorium.

Ivan Cataluna, our 2014 Honor Pup, mopped up awards at the program with his scholastic abilities.  What an amazing young man he is.  As a senior, he is headed for Dixie State University next year.  We also learned of another Pup entering the Marine Corps.  There were several other Devil Pup graduates who received honors:  McKenzie Simmons (2013 Pup), Cole Cutner (2014 Pup), Saxten Tesch (2012 Pup) and Jack Wright (2014 Pup).  Honors were also received by at least three of the current 2015 candidates. 


Lt. Col. William C. Toole, Devil Pup Liaison Rep who has worked with many of the AFJROTC students for the past 8-1/2 years, was given the first annual Special Veteran Appreciation award (along with free passes to Red Cliffs Rifle and Pistol Range).  The Devil Pup program has made a huge difference in the AFJROTC program as well as the lives of many Dixie High School cadets, evidenced by the parents who make it a point to thank Bill and the ring of cadets surrounding him when he is on campus.  

I was in on the surprise for Bill.  The SMSgts had asked me to meet with them without Bill a couple weeks ago to discuss giving him an award that he would like and use – not just another plaque.  Bill has always given out the Marine Corps League certificates and checks to a couple cadets but he had asked the current Commandant to do that duty this year.  So we thought we’d just be spectators – until Col. Whicker of the AFJROTC program (in order to get him on stage) asked him to be a presenter for another veteran who couldn’t make it.  Bill accepted and was on the stage with several other veteran heads, the mayor, the guest speaker, etc.

Since he knew he was to be on the stage to give an award, Bill wanted to know who it was for ahead of time.  Not only were the names a closely-guarded secret, he didn’t need to know because the announcer gives the name, the veteran walks out to center stage, the SMSgt comes over with the certificate and hands it to the veteran while the student walks up from the audience.  The student then accepts the certificate, the student and veteran presenter shake hands, salute each other, and turn to the audience and pose while the photographer takes their photo.  There was no dialogue except that of the narrator.  But Bill kept trying to find one of the SMSgts to get some information, and I kept telling him not to worry, he didn’t have to have a name.  Then we saw the program and he actually DID have an award to give for another veteran presenter who couldn’t attend.  But once Bill saw how the process was going and that he was far down on the list (there were 28 awards), he relaxed.  And, as it turned out, the award he ended up handing out was a special award because it went to Jackson, a young man from church whose dad is the head usher and we’ve interacted with him several times, although he never became a Devil Pup because of too many other commitments.  

Jackson and Lt. Col. Toole

 Jackson and his dad, Guy.

The large percentage of awards went to former Devil Pups and this year’s Devil Pup candidates.  Anyway, Bill then thought his part was over after he handed out Jackson’s award.  After all 28 awards were given, Col. Whicker then announced that they were starting a new award, the Special Veteran Appreciation award.  He called Lt. Col. Bill Toole, which surprised Bill.  However, his Marine Corps training kicked in, he walked up to center front stage, stood at attention and saluted facing the audience.  

 The packed auditorium (234 cadets, parents and families) went crazy and gave him a standing ovation.  It was very moving.  Col. Whicker came out and gave him a special framed certificate with shooting range free passes taped in an envelope on the back while the announcer read a short piece about how much Bill has done for the AFJROTC program through Devil Pups.  

So glad I was there to see it and capture it on film.  The official photographer will have the best photos, but I still got these in poor photo lighting.  Bill SO deserved this.  Pretty special evening for both of us.

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