The Navy National Defense Cadet Corp Washington (NJROTC) hosted its second Military Ball Saturday, Feb. 4, at the KC Hall in Washington.
The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and a cocktail hour, followed by opening ceremonies and dinner. The program also included a presentation of gifts and scholarships, and ended with a dance.
The evening highlighted the formal military customs and courtesies students have learned through the NJROTC program.
All of the ceremonies performed by the cadets mirrored those of adult military units. Cadets in the program attend Washington High School and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School.
There were 276 guests in attendance at the ball, which was sponsored by the NJROTC Washington Booster Club.
Some of the veterans in attendance wore their military uniforms.
Rodney “Rocky” Sickmann presented the keynote address, recounting his 444 days in captivity in Tehran, Iran, from Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 21, 1981.
As “one of the most terrifying events in U.S. history,” Sickmann was taken captive at the American Embassy in Tehran.
Originally from Krakow, thoughts of home, specifically his mother’s pancakes, were what kept him going.
“You have no idea what this flag represents until it is stripped from you,” Sickmann said.
Sickmann said every time he sees the number 444, he thinks about his time in captivity and it reminds him to be thankful.
“I will never forget. I’ve never prayed so hard in my life,” he said. “I’ve never wanted freedom so much in my life. We were stripped of our freedom, dignity and pride.”
Three months after being released, Sickmann was honorably discharged after six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He began working in advertising for KMOX radio in St. Louis, and then entered the private sector for Anheuser-Busch InBev where he worked for 34 years, most recently as the director for military and industry affairs, before retiring in July 2016.
After his retirement, Sickmann pursued an opportunity with the nonprofit organization Folds of Honor that provides educational scholarship assistance to spouses and children of fallen or disabled service members.
Sickmann left his audience with the reflection that: “The war on terrorism started on Nov. 4, 1979.”
Lt. Tim Raines, senior naval science instructor at Washington High School, said he leads the students and the Booster Club in presenting the ball not only to fulfill a requirement per Navy instruction, but also to thank the community for their support.
“I know that our Cadet Corps is only in existence because of community support,” he said. “I look at our Military Ball as the opportunity for our cadets to celebrate and say thank you to the community and citizens that support them.”
Honored guests at the ball were presented with Sword Detail at the door. In addition to Sickmann and Raines, special guests included Dr. Kelle McCallum, WHS principal; Dr. Rachael Franssen, Washington School District assistant superintendent; Trish Mitchell, school board treasurer; Ed Menefee, Washington police chief; Sandy Lucy, Washington mayor; Steven Pelton, Franklin County sheriff; and Father Kevin Schmittgens, president, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School.
Scholarships were presented to Dane Brautigam and Kyra Hardesty.
Brautigam, a 2016 graduate of Washington High School, was awarded a $180,000 scholarship by the U.S. Navy.
He will attend the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he will complete his undergraduate studies and then be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He will choose a warfare area to enter in the Navy during his senior year.
Hardesty, a senior at Washington High School, received the $2,000 Jack Taylor JROTC Scholarship. She was nominated by Raines. The scholarship is from the Navy League St. Louis Council.
The NJROTC Washington Booster Club officers are Tim Frankenberg, president; Berry Klussmann, vice president; Susan Zurick, secretary; and Bev Brautigam, treasurer.