ROTC provides company to elderly by visiting retirement community


Bearden ROTC students pose with residents at Echo Ridge.

Tori Lafon, Staff Writer

On a Saturday in late December, ROTC cadet Elizabeth Twohig visited the Echo Ridge Retirement Community, singing Christmas carols as a member of Bearden’s Latin club. While there, Twohig noticed a common trend: many of the residents did not get visitation.

“I found out that one man had been there for 10 years and he did not have anyone visit him, and many others were in a similar situation,” Twohig said. “It was really sad, so I started going over there more, and over Christmas break, I realized that ROTC could make an event to visit them.”

Twohig proposed the idea to ROTC teachers Chief Randy Dickson and Major Belinda Twohig, who is also her grandmother. With their approval, Elizabeth Twohig coordinated a weekly event allowing ROTC students to visit the retirement community.

Every Tuesday, a group of approximately 10 ROTC students led by Twohig walks over to Echo Ridge after school. They stay until 5 p.m., talking and interacting with the residents.

“The people there know now that every Tuesday, this group of kids will show up,” Major Twohig said. “You can really tell how happy it makes them to meet and engage with these cadets.”

While visiting, ROTC members participate in activities such as bean bag baseball, bowling, and even walking some of the residents’ dogs. For many, simply talking with the residents has become the favorite activity.

“They can tell that we are actually listening when they tell us stories and the smile it puts on their faces is different from other people’s smiles,” Cadet Melody Black said.  “I think they have a special smile that could put you in a good mood immediately.”

According to Twohig, she and her fellow cadets have been given the opportunity to hear many of the residents’ unique stories. A man named Jim Bean, who served in the Navy during World War II and lived in Okinawa, Japan, told her one of her favorites.

“His daughter graduated from over in Okinawa, and at her graduation from high school, there was this boy who wanted to be an actor,” Twohig said. “Well, everyone laughed at him and did not believe him, but a couple of years later, he was the Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.”

According to Major Twohig, the fact these kids are from ROTC has helped shape their experience at the retirement community and opened the channels for communication.

“There are many veterans over there, and they feel comfortable sharing these incredible stories with the cadets because they are in ROTC,” Major Twohig said. “It provides some common ground.”

As ROTC continues to visit Echo Ridge, Elizabeth Twohig wants to encourage other people to spend time at nursing homes.

“The recurring cadets that go over to Echo Ridge, I have seen them become better people as well as leaders,” Twohig said. “Their social skills have really developed and, also, the people there love young people so it is a great way for people to give back to the community.”