Bearden NJROTC students pay tribute to veterans in parade, but also strive to honor them daily


Randy Dickson

Bearden NJROTC students march in Thursday’s Veterans Day parade.

Celebrated every November 11, Veterans Day is a federally recognized holiday that honors all veterans who have served in the military.

Congress recognized Veterans Day as an official federal holiday in 1938. November 11 marked the end of World War I, making it fitting to honor veterans on this day. 

For many, Veterans Day passes as though it is just another day; however, at Bearden, NJROTC leaders Colonel Andre Harrell and Chief Randy Dickson ensure that their cadets understand the importance of Veterans Day and celebrate it honorably. 

NJROTC cadets are taught that Veterans Day should not be celebrated once a year, but everyday. Throughout the year, they partake in various events that highlight the importance of honoring, supporting, and remembering service members.

“We celebrate U.S .Veterans all year because our service members deserve recognition, acknowledgment, and attribution for their selfless sacrifice to our great nation,” Colonel Harrell said.

NJROTC begins the school year by showing a video of Medal of Honor recipients so that cadets understand why this medal is so revered by the military. Throughout the year, Bearden’s NJROTC participates in an annual 15-26 mile hike in remembrance of service members that lost their lives during the World War II Bataan Death March in the Philippines. They also partake in the Veteran’s Heritage run to pay respects to local veterans in the county.

“It’s imperative that our cadets not only understand the value of serving our country, but also the discipline, determination, tenacity, perseverance, and hard work it takes to be successful in the military,” Colonel Harrell said. “As with teaching or being a first responder, to serve a higher cause greater than yourself is an honorable vocation that deserves merit regardless of occupation or title.”

Chief Dickson and Colonel Harrell’s passion for Veterans Day has expanded to the entire company.

“Before ROTC, Veterans Day was just another day to me,” junior Marcus Bishop said. “ROTC has shown me that our veterans definitely deserve their own day for everything they sacrifice.”

Veteran pride is not unique to Bearden; East Tennessee is high on patriotism and veteran support. As a veteran himself, Colonel Harrell is proud of the East Tennessee community’s appreciation for their veterans.

“My wife and I moved here because of the patriotism and great support that veterans receive from the Knox County/Knoxville citizens and patrons,” Colonel Harrell said. “Everywhere you go, people are very respectful and appreciative of our military.  

“They always say ‘thank you for your service,’ but it means something special in Knox County. East Tennesseans truly recognize the importance of our veterans in our history and want to celebrate their commitment and dedication to this country.”

As a part of Veterans Day celebration, Bearden’s ROTC marched in Knoxville’s Veterans Day Parade, along with the Bearden marching band.

The parade is extra special for Bishop. His parents met while in the army, and both served in the Gulf War.

“The Veterans Day parade is the biggest parade in Knoxville,” Bishop said. “It is a 3-mile course of veterans filling the sidewalks the entire way. I know my mom and her entire former unit will be in attendance.”