ROTC brings past and present together

Briana Troske

Briana Troske

Past and present coincide together in the new program called “Vets & Cadets.” The program allows veterans to spend time and share their stories with cadets who will be or are in the active service.

“Vets & Cadets” was just an idea this summer, but then made into a new program this year that started in the fall at SDSU. Men and women who served in the armed forces that live in the Brookings area are paired up with current cadets attending SDSU.

Pastor Bob Chell of the University Lutheran Center came up with the idea when he attended a hospice last spring, where veterans met with others and discussed their time in the service.

“I thought we had a lot of vets and I thought it would be great for AFROTC cadets to visit with them,” said Chell. “I did it because I thought it would be great for these young men and women to hear what it’s like to be in active duty and listen to their stories.”

The program consists of about 20 people in total: ten cadets, each with a veteran. All of the cadets and veterans are volunteers. “Vets & Cadets” has had a wonderful response from the people involved in it and the community seems to be very pleased with it.

“It’s a win-win program for both the Air Force and veterans, because it allows the cadets to talk to some folks who have experienced a lot of things,” said Major Dan Hunter of the Air Force ROTC. “The vets get to share some of their history with someone who may walk down a similar path.”

The main activity the vets and cadets take part in together is sharing their compatible backgrounds. They are able to choose their own schedules, which makes it easier to spend more time together.

The pairs generally meet at a veteran’s house or eat lunch together somewhere in Brookings. On occasion, a veteran may attend a cadet’s sporting event.

Major Hunter claimed that Chell and himself were merely advisers for the making of the program. He said it was really Kyle Buckmiller that started the whole process.

Kyle Buckmiller, a junior biology major from Hartford, S.D., heads up the program within AFROTC. His job consists of many projects. He is in charge of recruiting cadets and matching them with interested veterans in the Brookings and nearby communities.

“I also meet with the cadets to ensure they’re meeting with their veterans and that the pairs are benefiting from the experience,” said Buckmiller.

“I think the most important thing about the program is that it’s honoring the vets for their service,” said Chell. “The cadets get to listen to their stories and be informed about the road that lies ahead. It will help equip young men and women for what they will encounter once they are in active duty.”

The goal for the program is to double the number of cadets and veterans involved this semester. They also would like to host some activities where everyone can meet together.

“My favorite part of the program is the ability of mentorship as well as fellowship between the cadet and veteran,” says Buckmiller. “Cadets get to hear from people who have already been involved in the military and ask questions they may have. Veterans have the chance to pass on their experiences to someone who may use them during their own time in the military.”