Kaiserslautern JROTC’s Veterans Day march collects record amount for programs, vets
Stars and Stripes November 10, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An annual Veteran’s Day march held Friday here in the largest overseas American military community collected a record amount of donations this year to help support former service members and two local Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps units, which are expecting funding shortages because of the wars in Israel and Ukraine, organizers said.
It was the fourth consecutive year that the Air Force JROTC unit at Kaiserslautern High School organized the event, which sees participants walk 22 laps around the school’s track to highlight the 22 veterans who die every day by suicide.
For the first time, JROTC cadets from Ramstein High School, about nine miles away, were also invited to participate.
Over 200 hundred students from both schools and about 100 other members of the community braved cold, wet weather to take part. The students collected donations ahead of the event. Contributions were also accepted at the door.
“This is one of our most important events of the year, and every year, we continue to raise more money,” said Cadet Col. Maurnice Ahavit, the leader of the Kaiserslautern unit.
The unit surpassed its $22,000 fundraising goal, collecting over $30,000 ahead of the march. The Ramstein group collected nearly $12,000. Of those totals, 22% will be given to local veterans’ groups, while the remainder will be used to support the JROTC units.
Last year, the Kaiserslautern program alone spent more than $50,000 to travel to competitions and organize other activities, said William J. Conley, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and teacher at Kaiserslautern High School who helped the cadets plan Friday’s event.
“The Air Force was kind enough to provide about half of that last year,” Conley said. “This year, because of what is going on in Israel and what’s going on in Ukraine, we don’t expect to get that sort of funding from the Air Force, so we’ve had to really double down our efforts.”
The event began with the singing of the national anthem from a choir comprised of singers from both schools. A joint color guard then led an inaugural lap around the track in silence to honor veterans who died by suicide.
While the two schools are usually rivals, Cadet Lt. Col. Jenna French, the leader of the Ramstein unit, said it was satisfying to unite for a good cause.
“There is still friendly competition with the donations,” French said smiling. “But at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing. We’re all here to help veterans.”