COLUMBIA – Veterans met with approximately 120 Smithton Middle School students to answer questions and advise students to take their education seriously.
In the school’s media room, students were encouraged to ask questions of the veterans and volunteers sitting in front of the group. Civil Air Patrol* Col. George M. Boyd and 1st Sgt. Morcie Whitley addressed the students’ inquiries about the veterans’ service.
Students wanted to know what kind of training each veteran had received, where they have traveled and what their responsibilities have been.
Boyd, a World War II and Vietnam War veteran, described his experience as a Radar Officer in World War II while also providing information about the Tuskegee Airman.
Students were interested in learning how old Boyd had been when he became an airman, 18, and just what model of plane he flew, PT 17.
When asked how long he had been a pilot, Boyd answered, “I still am. And I have a valid license if you want to see it.” He now flies a Cessna 172.
Boyd has been coming to Columbia for six years to speak at local public schools. Each audience he speaks to gets a good look at the replica of the Congressional Gold Medal the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded in 2007.*
“That medal has about 40,000 fingerprints on it, and I want yours on it too.” Boyd said as he handed the medal to a student in front of him.
“I do want it back,” Boyd joked as the medal was passed down the row.
When asked what advice he had for the group, Boyd told the students, “Right now, your job is to get good grades.” He told students working hard in school is important because life will bring them other things to worry about.
Whitley, an Air Force veteran now with the National Guard, had similar advice. Taken in by her aunt and uncle years ago, she wants to help other kids and give back to the community. One way she works to do so is to “let students know how important it is to study.”
A mentor to youth in her community, Whitley discussed how not making the grade can sometimes mean not making the cut. She gave an example of two young women who hadn’t gotten into the Air Force because of their test scores.
“If you don’t study, you won't get paid. People who study are going to get paid,” Whitley explained, adding that people are looking to hire people who are smart, disciplined, and don’t quit.