“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is
not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John F. Kennedy
Rubidoux High School students got a unique lesson on appreciation and living one's purpose on Feb. 6, when U.S. veterans from all branches, and of all military battles, received a warm welcome at RHS for the school's first-ever Military Interview event.
Students interviewed more than 40 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, who shared their stories of struggle and triumph while helping members of a new generation see the value of serving their country.
“During and after the event, students told me things like 'This is the best thing I've ever done in school' and 'Why can't we do this more often?'" said Brett Roble, a U.S. history and government teacher at Rubidoux High.
The event was coordinated by Rubidoux's JROTC students along with Mr. Roble and Mark McLouth, a retired Air Force Major and instructor with the RHS Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Said Maj. McLouth: “In JROTC we try to include our cadets in real-life operations, and putting on an event like this has a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Working with other cadets and students provided real-life experience in working as a team and figuring out how to overcome challenges and use creativity to make the event great."
After the interviews, many students expressed deepened appreciation for the sacrifices U.S. veterans have made for freedom, the instructors said. Cadets also felt inspired to see more of the world and learn about other cultures – one of the goals of the RHS social science department.
“I was able to see students light up talking with the vets, and I was able to see the vets light up talking with the students," Mr. Roble said.
“The cadets get excited hearing the wartime stories," said Maj. McLouth, “and learn more when the veterans tell of their lifelong friendships and how they looked out for each other."
Students agreed: “I absolutely loved it," said Clarissa Garcia; “I felt grateful to shake hands with a true American hero," said Roger Avila; and “(Veterans) are the bravest people I've met," said Oscar Martinez.
The event also featured JUSD Board of Education members Robert Garcia, Silvia Ortega, and Linda Chard and Superintendent Elliott Duchon. Mr. Garcia mentored students as they interviewed him about his service in the Navy. Ms. Ortega shared a personal story about the time her brother told her family that he would serve his country. Mrs. Chard described her family's deep roots in the U.S. military and thanked her husband, Alvin, who shared his experience with a group of students during the interview process. And Mr. Duchon thanked all veterans for their sacrifice, lauding one of the most decorated veterans in the room: former West Riverside Elementary student and retired Admiral Allen “Boot" Hill.
“I thought it was great how much Rubidoux was represented in the event," said Mr. Roble. “We had many Rubidoux grads and Rubidoux staff in attendance. Many students were surprised that some of their teachers or staff members were vets, and it helped them connect on a whole new level that has improved the 'vibe' on campus."
Maj. McLouth agreed. “It was truly an RHS experience with the History department, JROTC, teacher Ryan Bailey's video department providing great video and pictures, and food provided by Don Mitchell and his culinary students," he said. Mr. Mitchell is one of the veterans teaching at RHS.
The RHS band and choir added great music, and Technical Sgt. Cornelius Walker led the cadets in a moving flag performance and salute to the services flag presentation with the band.
In addition, the office of state Sen. Richard Roth, a retired Air Force General, awarded the RHS Class of 2018 a proclamation for establishing a veterans memorial on campus and lauded current students for the Military Interviews.
The event also drew members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post, veteran relatives of students, and community leaders such as former newspaper owner Dave Barnes, who long used his print platform to support local veterans, and RHS graduate and retired CHP officer Steve Mackey, a highly decorated veteran who lobbies on behalf of veterans nationwide.
The interviews succeeded in bringing history and valor directly to students. Learning from the experiences of others helps students break barriers, open channels of empathy, and learn without limits.
Cadet Major Saul Lepe, Wing Commander, an RHS student and leader of the JROTC cadets, said: “One thing I learned during Rubidoux's military interviews is that there are many sacrifices that those who serve our country must make for our nation to keep its freedom. I feel extremely lucky that I could participate in this event and grateful to all the veterans and staff here at Rubidoux who made it possible."
If you would like to participate in next year's Military Interview event, please contact Brett Roble at