On a fine October Sunday morning, around 10 a.m. a fleet of 14 of the largest school buses built, rolled by my house on Upper Craig road. The buses had Montgomery, Roanoke, and Botetourt school district names painted on their sides. What in the world is going on, I wondered? After church, my wife and I went for a leaf peeking ride, and discovered another strange sight. Just before the Craig Creek fire hall, 6 portable out houses were lined up next to the road, between Craig creek and a 20 foot cliff. There was no place to pull of to use them. A couple of hundred yards further on, the fire house grounds were jammed packed with 14 very large yellow school buses, only the drive way was clear for the fire engines to exit. The mystery grew as well in my curiosity. I headed back to my home, when the mystery became a great gift to us all. The Virginia Tech core of cadets were marching two by two in perfect cadence toward the fire hall. All were in military clothing with backpacks. I was headed in the opposite direction at a crawl pace, and saw hundreds of happy smiling faces on the cadets, that called out cheerful hellos and joyful waves as we passed. The lead cadets proudly lead the rest, with the Colors of the American and US Army flags flying in the wind. Each of the many squads of cadets, proudly carried their square identification flags as well. The line of cadets was massive, reached from the fire hall and yet they were still marching off the Hall Road as we passed by. I just assumed, the cadets were off loaded on Sinking Mountain, and use the quiet web of Craig County roads for a 20 mile hike.
Now here is your wonderful gift. The media only paints a picture of youth as gang members, mass murderers and the like. We paint this view in our mind, and think they are all that way. We fail to see the large silent majority of the youths, who are studying to become our next leaders, teachers, workers and soldiers of our Nation. So paint a fresh picture in your mind. A picture of a mile long line of joyful youths, who are learning military discipline, while studying and working to become great citizens. That is the gift of today’s youth, not the few criminal failures, that are betrayed as the new normal.
The Upper Craig Creek fire department volunteers understand the great and wonderful gifts of our youth, and they opened their hearts and station for them to grow and to learn to be a team. I present this gift to you, to open your mind, and to look for the great gifts the youth are offering to us today.