Military Ball 2013
By Cadet Kathryn Kennedy
Bethel Navy JROTC Public Affairs Officer
On February 17th, 621 guests attended the 10th annual Bethel Navy JROTC Military Ball at the Aquaturf Club in Plantsville, Connecticut. Cadets, students, teachers, elected officials, parents, grandparents and veterans alike, joined together to celebrate one common theme: Freedom and Liberty.
Much unlike any other school dance, the Bethel Military Ball brings out and exemplifies the magnitude of potential the cadets have. Under the careful leadership and instruction of their teachers, retired Navy Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells and Marine Master Sergeant Joseph Meehan, the cadets developed an understanding of the theme “Celebrating Liberty and Freedom”, and created the experience of the ball. What they produced was nothing short of sheer elegance, a patriotic expression of gratitude for our freedom, and proud celebration of cultural diversity and pride for our country as a nation of immigrants.
The ball proudly commenced with the parading of the colors, or march-on of our national emblem. To some, the American flag might just be like any other. But for those who attended the ball, the way the cadets presented it renewed their sense of honor, courage and commitment. Sophomore Cadet Jennifer Cote delivered an impelling speech, reciting the fervent words of President Woodrow Wilson by proclaiming “The things that the flag stands for were created by the experience of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives. The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history. This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation”. Cadet Cote’s presentation captured the audience and set the tone for the evening’s festivities.
Following the flag presentation the cadets presented a multi-cultural expression of pride. A dozen cadets of various cultures greeted all guests in their native language welcoming them to the ball, and then offered the same in English, claiming it was an honor to represent their families cultural heritage as a proud American. Following the cadets proclamations, Junior Cadet Romana Pilepich led another moving speech, explaining the words of Adlai Stevenson and expressing that the American culture encompasses all. Romana delivered the nearly 600 words from memory flawlessly. She penned much of the speech herself, and proudly proclaimed “As Americans, we are united by the values upon which our country was founded. We join together in the light of our liberty while celebrating this freedom in diverse ways that reflect the heritage of our ancestors. But in the face of all our differences in nationality, religion, belief, and value, how can we define an American?” The speech defined our national pride as a country that draws its strength for our freedom, which we celebrate in diverse ways. Cadet Pilepich left the audience in awe of her performance, many with tears rimming their eyes, as she ended by inviting them to stand and extend a hand of freedom and brotherhood to their fellow guests.
The guest of honor was Army Major Tom Deierlein. The Major is a West Point Graduate who went on to become a successful businessman, but was then called back to active duty and was severely wounded in Iraq. Despite the danger that he faced and his difficult recovery from being wounded in combat, and despite never returning to the Middle East again, Major Deerlein started a charity for the children of the Mideast raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct aid for war torn children. Major Deierlein challenged the cadets to become leaders, and specifically to “have a mentor and be a mentor”, thus reinforcing the idea of duty and personal responsibility for those who properly celebrate freedom and liberty. His comments are available online at: http://youtu.be/-PNgtwdZ4YI
The final portion of the formalities was the Commanders Waltz. Seventeen couples were announced and took position on the dance floor with Lt. Commander Dwinells and his wife, Mrs. Karen Dwinells. This year they danced to the melody of the song Under the Bridges of Paris, and conducted a beautiful 3-minute synchronized waltz that the Commander and his wife had choreographed and taught the cadets.
Like many of the seniors in the Bethel Navy JROTC program, Cadet Lt. Zane Knapp was awed by his fourth and final ball. “I was very proud to have been part of a program that puts on such a wonderful event, and proud to be part of a country that allows for such programs to exist. Overall, I couldn't have been more pleased with how the night went”.
It was the hard work and dedication of the 240 Bethel cadets, their Booster Parents, and the Navy JROTC instructors that made the ball memorable. Yes, it was a time for socializing and dressing up like movie stars, but the military ball goes beyond elegance, it instills a sense of patriotism and was a true celebration of our freedom and liberty.
Photos of the night can be seen at www.bobevansimages.com
The videos of the event are available at: