It was a night of celebration for the West Jefferson Air Force JR ROTC when the cadets that volunteer at the Gretna Farmers’ Market and their leader were recognized at the May city council meeting. Following the presentation, a reception was hosted by the Gretna Farmers’ Market Committee at the German-American Cultural Center.
Beyond the ROTC’s service at the Farmers’ Market, the cadets volunteer at many annual special events like Chili Cookoff on the River, St. Joseph Church Rummage Sale, Ringing in the Oaks, Gretna Goblin Night, Gretna Beautification Program, Crawfish Cookoff, Gretna Christmas Pageant and BMX competitions, to name a few. Leaders of these programs say that the ROTC dedication and service is a most valuable component in the success of their events.
A special certificate was presented to Senior Master Sergeant Cindy Richards by Mayor Belinda Constant that read, “The Mayor of Gretna, on behalf of the Elected Officials, does hereby recognize you for your 22 years of service to the students of West Jefferson High School as the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor and Director of the Air Force ROTC Cadet program. Your commitment to your students and leadership of the ROTC’s volunteer service for the Gretna Farmers’ Market and Art Walk are greatly appreciated, and we are proud to honor you tonight for your dedication!”
Cadets of the West Jefferson Air Force JR ROTC program were presented with certificates that read “for being a faithful volunteer of the Gretna Farmers’ Market and Art Walk. Your hard work exceeds all expectations, and we are proud to honor you for your dedication to the City of Gretna.”
Upperclassmen included Connor Boudreaux, Christian Fontenot, Hunter Joyce, Anthony Paduada and Elizabeth Puentes. Underclassmen were Lauren Goss, Hugo Hernandez, David Nguyen, Joshua Pasos, Taylor Rhoto, Allen Rivet and Shirdariyon Williams.
Air Force Junior ROTC is for students above the 8th grade. Some cadets complete the ROTC programs at universities and colleges and enter the military as officers. The West Jefferson platoon also includes students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced Studies.
“Our ROTC includes 9-12 grade students from West Jeff and Thomas Jefferson. We average 150 cadets in the corps. We try to instill a strong sense of community service as well as discipline and responsibility. This graduating class has performed over 3500 hours in service. In the last five years we have had three cadets accepted to the Air Force Academy and at least 20 enlist in the military,” SMSgt. Richards said.
SMSgt. Richards joined the U.S. Air Force in 1978 and retired in June 2000, after serving 20 years. She started at West Jefferson AFJROTC in July of 2000 and will officially retire on June 30, 2022.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, she currently lives in Marrero with her husband whom she met while serving in the Air Force.
“The young men and women cadets of the LA063 Air Force JROTC that help us at the Farmers’ Market are the shining stars of America’s future. As we watch them grow and mature over the years they are with us, we are happy, pleased and amazed. Then the sad time comes when we see them graduate and leave,” Co-coordinator Peter DeBroeck said.
“Just like a parent, SMSgt. Cindy Richards has been the driving and loving force behind all of this. We are sad to see her go as she is retiring at the end of this school year. Both Sgt. Richard and the cadets have been a cornerstone of the Gretna Farmers’ Market. We hope the cadets will be with us for years to come,” he said.
The reception, where meatballs and spaghetti was enjoyed by all ended with a delicious cake for Sgt. Richards decorated with her Air Force insignia. The cadets had a short sing-a-long as talented Connor Boudreaux, who can play brass, wind or percussion instruments, played the piano.
Co-coordinator, Monica Naquin said, “We love our cadets and can’t imagine running the market without them. They are an integral part of our weekly operations. We’re always sorry to see the graduates move on, but we wish them great success in their futures.”
The Gretna Farmers’ Market Committee includes Belinda Constant, Anna Smith, Jeanine Falcone, Joe Falcone, Jill DeBroeck, Peter DeBroeck, Jo Ann Toomy, Joe Toomy, Laura Mesko, Manuel Ponce, Denise Ponce, Ann Carmon and Monica Naquin.
The Gretna Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., rain or shine. Located under the market pavilion between 3rd and 4th Streets along Huey P. Long Avenue, the market offers fresh produce, prepared foods and assorted homemade goods year-round. Follow the Gretna Farmers’ Market Facebook page. To become a vendor or volunteer, contact the Market Coordinators at email@example.com.
The Gretna Art Walk occurs the second Saturday of September-December and March-May and allows artists to showcase their crafts. To become a vendor at the Gretna Art Walk, apply at www.gretnala.com.