- Cleburne Independent School District
First Act of Duty for New Commanding Officer of CHS Navy Defense Cadet Corps Honors a Navy Veteran
One of Linkyn Harris’s first acts as the new Commanding Officer of the Cleburne High School Navy Defense Cadet Corps was to answer a call of duty to honor a veteran.
Harris, along with fellow Cadet, Master Chief Carson Botkin were among those responding to a Burleson Residents and Neighbors Facebook post asking for a show of support for a Fort Worth Navy veteran who was on hospice. Veterans were invited to stop by their home to “share a story” and words of encouragement with Nicholas “Doc” Guastella, Sr. and his wife and son.
“One of my mother’s friends saw the post and contacted her,” Harris said. “I felt like this was something I could do and reached out to a few members of our unit to see if they would go with me. I felt like we could shake his hand, take a few minutes to know him and thank him for his service.”
The CHS students, along with Joshua High School JROTC Public Affairs Officer Aren Golleher joined with the 35-plus veterans who filled the front porch and yard, as they waited to express thanks to Guastella, who had served as a Navy Corpsman on the USS San Jose during the Viet Nam War era.
“One of the first things I want to do as the new Commanding Officer is to get our unit involved in the community,” Harris said. “This is one way of doing that. Every day you hear stories of veterans who aren’t appreciated enough. I felt this might bring a smile to his face, and maybe give his family some comfort.”
“I shook his hand and told him ‘Fair Winds and Following Seas,’ which is something said at Navy retirement ceremonies,” Harris said. “I felt his time was getting close.”
The trio of students also brought the flag of the U.S. Navy to present as a token of appreciation. The flag had been purchased by Carson Botkin’s father, Terry, who accompanied his son on the visit.
“They got to be a part of the filling of a veteran’s special wish,” Botkin said. “They also got to experience what can happen when your community calls and you answer. There was a large outpouring of support from veterans, including those who served in the Navy. You could see the family was overwhelmed by the support.”
Among those in attendance were representatives of Roll Call, an organization focused on bringing Dallas/Fort Worth area veterans together for camaraderie and fellowship at monthly luncheons.
“I figured we would all be veterans at the gathering,” Roll Call Military Liaison Roy Davis said. “It was a nice surprise to see these young people—Cadets—there. They looked sharp and were obviously dedicated to the organization they represent.”
“Linkyn got up and said a few words in front of everyone,” Davis said. “He really stood out and I was very impressed. You could see the passion in him, and all three of those kids.”
Terry Botkin, who had taken the lead in being in contact with Guastella’s family, received word late last week of the passing of the Navy veteran.
“This was a memorable experience, one I believe has planted seeds of service in these kids.,” Botkin said. ‘It also let them see how precious life can be.”
Harris agrees. Spending a Saturday afternoon with those who served their nation, brought together to honor a fellow veteran in his final days, has confirmed to him the importance of involving his fellow Cadets in service.
“Through this, I’ve learned just how much I appreciate what veterans have done, and how we need to do more to show our appreciation,” Harris said. “I want to take our unit around to nursing homes in Cleburne and Johnson County to visit with veterans there. We need to let veterans know people care about them and the things they have done in service to our country.”
“This was meaningful to all three of us,” he said. “We saw how much taking our time to make others feel better can matter. I’m glad we went. It is something I will remember for a long time.”
“Through something sad like this, good things can come,” Davis said. “There’s something good in bringing people together for the sake of another. I would like to see Linkyn bring the Cleburne High School unit to some of our meetings, to post the colors. Seeing these young people gives us hope for the future, including the future of our military.”
One of Linkyn Harris’s first acts as the new Commanding Officer of the Cleburne High School Navy Defense Cadet Corps was to answer a call of duty to honor a veteran. Harris, center, along with fellow Cadet Chief Officer Carson Botkin and Joshua High School JROTC member Aren Golleher, right, responded to a family’s request for a show of support for a Navy veteran in hospice. (Courtesy Photo)