FARMINGTON — It was apparent a group of Farmington High School students gathered in the lobby on Jan. 14 for a special presentation weren’t quite sure why they were called to the front of the building.
The members of the Air Force JROTC program found their advisors, Lt. Col. Stephen Wenninger and Senior Master Sgt. Earnest Heflin, standing in the area with a group of men many had met before.
Heflin reminded the students about the three special medal ceremonies held to honor veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars. Students from the program’s Color Guard presented the colors at each ceremony.
Gathered in the lobby with the students was Ray Callanan, the man responsible for planning each of those events.
Callanan is a Farmington resident and a veteran. He served in the 65th Infantry Division, activated in 1943.
“I feel very strongly that we need to honor all the veterans for their service,” Callanan said in an interview with the Farmington Press shortly before the ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans was held in October. “Time passes and memories fade. We are the forgotten people, too.”
With the ceremonies completed and the medals handed out, Callanan knew just what to do with the extra money that remained.
The reason for the gathering in the lobby that day was for these men who served their country to give their thanks to the students who gave their time to help make the ceremonies possible.
Col. Steven Wenninger of the JROTC program asked the students how many were involved in the ceremonies.
As they raised their hands, Col. Wenninger thanked the veterans in attendance for their service to the country and community through the medal ceremonies.
Kent Hitchings, a Vietnam veteran who served as Master of Ceremonies during the medal presentations, visited with the students, telling them Callanan was General Patton’s “right-hand man” during his service.
Callanan was chosen three times to serve in an honor guard for General Patton.
“I saw Patton,” Callanan said, adding he also got “chewed out” by the famous general.
One of Callanan’s duties for Patton was to shine his pistol.
“He told me, ‘don’t call those pistol handles metal. Those are ivory,’” Callanan recalled.
Those pistols are now on display at West Point.
When presenting the donation to the students, Callanan told the students they could use the money for the group.
“You could throw a pizza party,” he said with a smile.
Senior Jessica Bequette accepted the check on behalf of the group, thanking Callanan and saying, “this means a lot to us.”
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached by calling 573-756-8927 or email@example.com