Saturday night I img_2002.JPGbraved the torrential rain at the invitation of Lt. Col. Clark Taylor (a regular in blog postings), to attend the Army ROTC Military Ball. The cadets and officers at the ball were from two different ROTC programs: the University of Arkansas and Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. There were a number of interesting traditions to witness. There was a very formal receiving line where each guest was announced to the line by the adjutant, in this case a young cadet standing to the right of Lt. Col. Taylor. The adjutant’s role is to present the guest to the presiding officer who in turn presents the guest to the guest of honor. The adjutant does not shake hands with the guests. Because I didn’t know, I extended my hand to the adjutant who remained in her perfectly straight position with her hands behind her back and announced me to Lt. Col. Taylor (oops!).

The cJack E. Buffingtonolors were posted by a color guard of four women cadets. After the invocation and introductions, there were a series of toasts (with sparkling grape juice). We toasted to the Commander in Chief, Army, sister services, all who have served and are currently serving, the Razorback Brigade, The Riverhawk Battalion, families and guests and the ladies. Each toast was offered by specially selected cadet, except for the toast to the sister services which was offered by Admiral Mike Johnson (whom we know as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities), whose terrific wife Terry was with him. Admiral Jack Buffington, a professor of civil engineering, was also a guest.

img_2013.JPGOne of the most fascinating moments in the program was the Fallen Soldier Ceremony. The table is set for one and symbolizes the members of the military who are missing. Some were prisoners of war, missing in action or fallen soldiers. Their dedication to duty and commitment to the country as well as their memories are honored in this way. I’ve paraphrased the text of the ceremony:

  • The small table set for one symbolizes the frailty of one soldier alone against his enemies.
  • The white tablecloth symbolizes the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • The single red rose, displayed in a vase, symbolizes the blood shed to protect the liberty so cherished in our country.
  • The yellow ribbon tied prominently on the vase, symbolizing remembrance, reminds us of the families and loved ones who keep the memories of those soldiers alive.
  • The bracelet is worn upon the wrists of thousands, whose unyielding determination demands a proper accounting of our missing.
  • The bronze star is a symbol of courage in the face of the enemy.
  • A slice of lemon, on the bread plate, is to remind us of their bitter fate.
  • There is salt upon the bread plate, symbolic of the families’ tears.
  • The glass on the table is inverted, because they were unable to be present to join in the toasts.
  • The chair is empty because the soldiers are not present.
  • The candle is a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice fallen soldiers and their families have made to preserve our precious freedom.

img_2008.JPGAnother surprising tradition was that the “most expendable” member of the company was called forth to taste the food before it was served. You can imagine the historical reasons for this, but it was nevertheless surprising to witness. The cadet declared the food to be “delectable and utterly pleasing to the palate.” At that point we dined on pork loin (there was also a choice of steak or chicken), twice backed potato, green beans and cheese or chocolate cake. I was delighted to be seated with Lt. Col. Taylor and his wife Julia, Col. Richard F. Bowyer, the keynote speaker, and his wife Kelly, Cadet Bishop, the Cadet Battalion Commander, and his date Rebekkah Mendoza and Susan Mayes, an instructor in health science and kinesiology at the university.

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Here let me interject a wonderful and personal aside. One of the members of our law school community was in attendance. David Phillips, a third-year, was with his fiancée, Alline Fulton. They shared the most romantic story. As it turns out, David is an alumnus of the ROTC program. He left about 20 years ago, had a distinguished career in the military and returned for law school. But when he left, he also left Alline, and they hadn’t communicated in all that time. Little did David know that, while he was studying in Waterman Hall, Alline would walk by on her way to the Poultry S

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cience Building. One day, David was looking in the campus directory and spotted her name. He emailed her and, as they say, the rest is history! David presented her with his mother’s ring, and they are engaged to be married. Thanks, David, for sharing your lovely story.

Anyway, back to the banquet. The speaker-Colonel Boyer from Ft. Sills, Okla.-directed his talk towards the cadets, but it was a great reminder for anyone striving to assume a position of leadership. Leaders, he said, are selfless, self-aware, have the capacity to make decisions, learn from mistakes and care for those who work with and for them. His talk was extremely motivational and it gave all the leaders in the room food for thought.

After the program, I danced a bit before heading home to rest after another busy week. A special thanks to Susan for driving, especially given the stormy weather.

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