Sporting a dark United States Air Force pilot suit, Maj. Jason Rue told Lanier Career Academy students of his days in combat in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan at an assembly emphasizing the importance of Veterans Day.
Although Veterans Day celebrations on Tuesday are still a few days away, Lanier Career Academy students had the opportunity Wednesday to ask Rue questions about his 14 years of military service.
Rue, 36, is a Hall County resident who was eager to reunite with Lanier Career Academy Principal Danny Jones, who taught Rue history at South Hall Middle and West Hall High schools.
"I’ve been a major a long time," Rue told students. "Years ago I was a major pain in the butt for Mr. Jones."
Jones said he was pleasantly surprised to see Rue at the assembly held Wednesday at the alternative school.
"We go back a long way," Jones said of Rue. "I’m so proud of him and all that his life has meant. ... He’s a fine person, a fine husband and a fine patriot."
Rue has been a C-17 cargo plane pilot in the Air Force Reserve for 14 years. He spent three years on active duty in the late 1990s in Kosovo and another two years of active duty flying missions in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.
Rue said he wanted to share with Jones’ students his passion for serving the United States of America. He’s also choosing nine winners out of nearly 100 essays Lanier Career Academy students wrote about why they believe it’s important to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Winning students, who will be announced next week, will take home a check for $25.
"I’m passionate about helping other kids stay aware of what’s going on around them. I want them to understand that and appreciate it," he said. "We (serve in the armed forces) because we love our country and we appreciate our freedom.
Rue encouraged students at the alternative high school, some of whom are already parents or are working jobs after school, to hang in there and get their education. He said the military wants educated people, and applicants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent degree to join the armed forces.
He urged students to consider a career in the military. He said the best way students can honor veterans on Veterans Day is to thank them for their service and by honoring the American flag.
Daniel Farrar, 17, is a student at Lanier Career Academy and said he hopes to join the U.S. Marines Corps like his two older brothers. He said he supports Veterans Day and respects the military. Farrar said he hopes more young people get involved in the armed forces.
"(Veterans) did something that not everybody can do," he said. "It takes a certain type of person."
Whitney Finch, 18, is also a student at Lanier Career Academy and said she hopes to become a nurse in the U.S. Air Force. She said she believes students should appreciate the sacrifices veterans and their families have made, but many don’t.
Jones said the military is a great option for many high school students.
He said, "These days (students) need to feel like they have a sense that they’re giving back and doing something important, and our national defense is as important as anything."