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Shepard High School's U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps held a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony September 9 at the school, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights. (Supplied photos)

Shepard High School's U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps held a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony September 9 at the school, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights. (Supplied photos)

Shepard cadets pay homage to fallen heroes

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By Kelly White

Shepard High School students took time to remember fallen heroes during a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony last week.

For the seventh year in a row, the U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps held the ceremony at the school, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights, on September 9.

The school has been honoring 9-11 for more than a decade, according to Shepard staff. JROTC has taken over the remembrance ceremony over the past few years.

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Shepard High School’s U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps held a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony at the school.

The event gave both students and staff time to recognize and reflect on the day’s events, Shepard High School JROTC member, John Anthony Alvarado, said.

“The thing I like about the 9-11 Remembrance is not just the ability to get together with other cadets but acknowledging the actual reason we are here,” Alvarado, 16, of Worth, said. “The reason we are here is in remembrance of those who were taken from us who had so much. This is the event to never forget those people who passed away and for those who are greatly traumatized by this horrid event.”

JROTC is a program offered to high schools that teaches students character education, student achievement, wellness, leadership and diversity. Shepard has won a Distinguished Unit Award from USAF the past several years, and the remembrance exemplifies the spirit of service that runs through the school’s JROTC program.

The 100 students in the program work under the guidance of Major Daniel Johnson and Master Sergeant Chris Saberniak.

“This event is one of the more unifying things we do in JROTC, and it is probably the most visible and significant thing we do for the whole school,” Johnson said. “Staff and students really appreciate the opportunity to connect, even for a few minutes, through this event.”

The passion behind the students to honor and reflect on the importance of the day is substantial given that 9-11 occurred before any of today’s students were even born, school officials said.

“I really am honored to play a part in giving cadets an opportunity to respect, remember, and connect with the events from 21 years ago,” Johnson said. “None of our students were alive. An event like this gives them a tangible way to experience and engage with those events.”

The morning’s remembrance began with the National Anthem, a 9-11 flag ceremony, followed by JROTC members reading off all of the names of the 2,983 victims who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001. The list of 3,000 names was obtained by the cadets through the website, 911memorial.org.

“This personalizes the tragedy,” Johnson said. “It is easy to say about 3,000 people were killed that day, but when you listen to those names being read, you realize these were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of real people who did not come home that day.”

As the names were read, JROTC members walked a memorial walk of 56 laps on the recently renovated track in the football stadium around the school’s track field.

“The 9-11 event is so fun because you get to be with people from other classes while also taking time to remember this tragic event and the people who lost their lives,” Lauren Sinisi, 17, of Oak Lawn, said.

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Shepard High School’s U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps held a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony September 9 at the school, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights.

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