Several Tullahoma High School JROTC cadets will be standing watch during an all-night vigil in Shelbyville in commemoration of Veterans Day, according to officials with the Shelbyville American Legion.
According to Tim Estes, commander of American Legion Post 23, the group will be hosting a Battlefield Cross vigil beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, during which cadets from the THS JROTC program will be “standing watch over the vigil throughout the night.”
The vigil is a new component of the annual Veterans Day commemorations in Shelbyville, according to Estes.
Each year the United Veterans Council of Bedford County puts together a Veterans Appreciation Parade. This year, however, Estes said he wanted to do something extra to pay homage to those who have served the country—both living and deceased.
“I came up with the idea of setting up the battlefield vigil probably a month or so ago,” Estes said.
In looking for new ways to honor those who served and those who had fallen in the line of duty, he came across an eternal flame memorial that seemed like an interesting idea.
While he could not put together the same type of memorial due to logistical issues, he could put together a night-long vigil that mimicked an all-night flame.
“I thought I could set up a battlefield cross and have an overnight vigil,” Estes said.
In looking for support for the vigil, Estes thought having members of local JROTC programs help out would be appropriate.
Seeing as none of the Bedford County Schools have JROTC programs, Estes reached out to the JROTC cadets of THS to see if they would like to be a part of the Veterans Day festivities.
Unfortunately, the parade occurs on the same day as the annual Marine Corps Ball for the JROTC students, so they could not take part in the Saturday commemorations, Estes said.
“They have the Marine Corps ball this weekend, so they wouldn’t be able to participate,” he said.
However, they were available to take part in the overnight watch, he added.
“I thought if I do this (vigil) Friday night maybe they could swing it,” he said.
At last count, Estes estimated around 15 THS JROTC cadets were signed up to take part in the vigil.
The plan is for the cadets to arrive in Shelbyville at around 4:30 p.m. Friday, grab a light dinner and set up camp at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) building and then wait for their night shifts to begin.
Estes said that he believes the cadets will be pairing up for the shifts, which he said should last about two hours each.
The cadets will not be out there on their own, however. Estes said adult volunteers from the Shelbyville American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) will also be on hand throughout the night to stand watch as well.
This is not the first time that cadets from the THS JROTC program have come out to Shelbyville for military events, Estes said.
Last Christmas, he said, several cadets helped him in his annual “Wreaths Across America,” program, which sees volunteers place Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans.
The help is always appreciated, said Estes, and if the cadets wish to continue supporting him and “Wreaths Across America,” they are welcome to.
“It’s all on a volunteer basis,” he said, “and if they want to help that’s more than okay.”
Those who wish to come by the square in Shelbyville and pay their respects during the vigil are encouraged to stop by at any time during the evening and night if they wish, Estes said.
The vigil will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, and continue through the night until 6 a.m. Saturday.
The vigil will take place on the south side of the square in Shelbyville, approximately at 11 Public Square S., Shelbyville.
Erin McCullough may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.