During the 50th-year celebration of JSU’s ROTC program, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Reuben D. Jones reminded JSU Army ROTC cadets they would live uncommon lives under a common banner while fighting wars, preserving peace and defending the U.S.
Jones delivered the keynote address April 7 at the 49thAnnual Spring Gala by the Department of Military Science in Liberal Arts. The event was held at the Old Capital Inn in downtown Jackson.
“Each of you is part of a proud legacy and must be prepared to serve with honor and dignity,” Jones said. “Each year we set aside this season to celebrate and pay tribute for your devotion, patriotism, selfless service and sacrifice as you prepare for a bright future.”
Jones continued, telling the 127 cadets of the Tiger Battalion that “it is our loyalty to our country and your great courage that makes us what we are today and what we have been for over five decades: beacons of hope in an increasingly complex word.”
Meanwhile, JSU saluted Dr. John A. Peoples Jr., president emeritus at JSU, for founding ROTC at Jackson State University a half-century ago.
“Bringing ROTC at Jackson State University was not an easy thing. There was so much opposition to it on the part of the powers that be. … We were told we did not have enough men for a volunteer unit. So, I had to get crossovers from the local colleges,” Peoples said.
He was turned down by every school expect Hinds Junior College and Tougaloo College.
“This was during the Vietnam War. We had to get support from the men on the campus during a time when there were protests all over the country against the war, even at Jackson State. As a matter of fact, the Army ROTC building was set afire by protesters.”
Peoples said he’s proud of today’s cadets and wish he could have been a part of such a program. Unfortunately, for Peoples, opportunities did not exist then in such a limited and segregated climate.
Joining in the celebration, Lt. Col. Dexter Brookins, commander of the JSU Tiger Battalion, paid homage to Peoples for his resolve to start the program, which was officially activated in December 1968.
Brookins also gave special recognition to supporters, including sponsors, alumni and the Beta Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. As well, he presented scholarships to cadets and welcomed the installation of Mister and Miss ROTC 2018-2019.
Brookins’ remarks also captured the theme of the spring gala, as he declared JSU cadets as being the “Right Stuff, Tiger Tuff.”
Further shining the spotlight on ROTC, Jones explained why JSU must reflect on the sacrifices of the nation’s service members. To accomplish this, he invoked the words of Calvin Coolidge, who would later become the 30thpresident of the U.S.: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
Jones told cadets they would forever make a positive impact no matter where they go. “You will inspire future generations.”
In observance of JSU ROTC’s golden anniversary, Jones and the Tiger Battalion shared a laundry list of accomplishments about the history of the program:
- JSU ROTC has commissioned more than 800 second lieutenants
- Four General Officers have been produced through the program
- By December, the program will have commissioned 22 new second lieutenants
- Tiger Battalion is credited with producing 99 percent of first-generation officers
- JSU serves as the host school under the umbrella of the Tiger Battalion. Participants include Belhaven University, Delta State University, Hinds Community College-Utica Campus, Millsaps College, Mississippi College, Mississippi College School of Law, Mississippi Valley State University, Tougaloo College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center Nursing School
Jones also admonished cadets about the Army’s values (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage.) “We don’t leave these behind when we take off our uniforms. We take them back to the communities that we grew up in and the communities that we serve.”
He ended his remarks by offering cadets the same “gift” that shaped his leadership and command over soldiers and civilians:
“Before you speak, listen; before you write, think about it; before you invest, investigate; before you lead, learn to follow; before you teach, do learn; and before you die, live.”