Students in the Missouri Military Academy’s junior school had an opportunity Saturday to outshine older cadets. The event: handmade homecoming decorations.
Karen Youst is an expert when it comes to barracks decorations. Youst, one of four judges, has been doing this since she married her husband, the academy’s Alumni Association president, 22 years ago.
“This is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The younger kids still find it fun to make the decorations,” Youst said.
The real show, though, included all cadets in grades five through 12, who performed a four-part military review to honor alumni. The review included cadets marching in formation and being inspected by alumni and faculty, an honors presentation and a final review by alumni.Among those honored were Maj. Peter Zike, Maj. Jimmy Kraker and Capt. James Wheeler, who were recognized for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Zike, a member of the class of 1983, served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom beginning in September 2002. After 11 months, he returned to the United States for three weeks before leaving for Iraq in August 2003.
Kraker graduated from the academy in 1986. After graduating from West Point, he served in the Army and most recently in Afghanistan for nine months in 2003.Wheeler, a faculty member at the academy, also served in Iraq as part of the Military Police attached to the 82nd airborne division.
Although only 2 percent of MMA graduates go on to have a military career, both Kraker and Zike acknowledged the academy’s influence in their lives.
“It helped me learn core values of discipline and leadership,” Kraker said.
“I got a lot of good things from the academy; discipline, self-reliance, a sense of purpose and some moral bases. Looking back, I learned a lot about right and wrong,” Zike said.
Two hundred alumni attended the homecoming activities.
“It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillette, director of institutional advancement, who was in charge of planning the weekend. “We all have a common bond, and when we get together, it’s automatic brotherhood.”