News and Tribune

March 2012 tornado coverage

April 12, 2012

Army of help: Cadets from New Albany, Floyd Central high schools help farmers clean fields in Pekin

PEKIN — With 40 acres to cover and 136 cadets to do the job, students from Floyd Central and New Albany high schools’ Navy JROTC helped farmers get ready for the planting season Wednesday morning.

The students went through the corn fields of farmers in Pekin to remove debris that could damage equipment as they plant their crops.

Retired Lt. Col. Ben Gipe, the senior naval science instructor for Floyd Central’s Navy JROTC, said he and his students searched for opportunities to help communities hit by the tornadoes of March 2.

After looking for places that didn’t have harsh restrictions on volunteers, he found some farmers in Pekin who needed help preparing for corn planting season.

“They were very receptive,” Gipe said. “They were going to take any help they could get.”

Gipe said his students had already made one trip to help the farmers in Pekin on March 14. They decided to give up a field trip to Fort Knox in Kentucky to help out instead.

“I just couldn’t be more proud of the kids and what they do to put other people first,” Gipe said. “I think it’s tremendous and I think they learned a lot about making the world a better place by helping others.”

Phillip Hubbard, the battalion operations officer and a senior at NAHS, helped lead a group of cadets through a field that belongs to Sylvia and Scott Luttrell. They lost their home, but still had corn to plant.

The students from NAHS moved small uprooted trees and portions of A-frames from the roofs of homes that had blown into the field.

Hubbard said he was glad to get out and help one of the communities that hasn’t received as much attention as others.

“I know Pekin and Marysville all got hit really bad and I don’t think they’ve been given the attention they deserve,” Hubbard said.

He said the students at his school also had to give up one of two field trips that were coming up — either a trip to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or a drill competition in Florida — to come volunteer.

Retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Lyn Akermon, senior naval science instructor for NAHS’ Navy JROTC, said about 90 percent of his students gave up one field trip to come out and help.

“That’s what this program is all about, making better citizens,” Akermon said. “Some of them were willing to come out and give up some of their free time. With JROTC kids, they’re a very giving group.”

Meredith Peters, a retired teacher who helped the schools find a way to volunteer their time, said the outreach from groups has been huge.

“It’s been such a great outpouring of volunteers, I’ve had to turn people away,” Peters said. “You hate to say that, but the cleanup’s almost finished.”

Gipe’s students also decided to give a donation that they usually use for the program. Floyd Central’s students gave $650 they received from the Golden Cactus in Floyds Knobs for recovery efforts in Pekin.

Akermon’s students also stepped up to give. They collected about 1,300 pounds of goods and supplies to donate to communities hit by the tornadoes.

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