BY SAMANTHA SOLLIDAY
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
KILLEEN — Meeting a Medal of Honor recipient is less likely than meeting a professional football Hall-of-Famer. There are only 72 living recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
Shoemaker High School students had the privilege of meeting two in a powerful ceremony Friday, Jan. 25 at the school. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell and retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry took part in a Tribute to Valor ceremony.
The Tribute to Valor Foundation visited the school in Killeen to show students connection of character values for military personnel who serve their country bravely and those who commit their career to science, technology, engineering and math pursuits.
With Shoemaker Junior ROTC cadets and band and choir students giving support, the foundation also honored local Gold Star families.
“A hero is an ordinary person doing extraordinary things,” said Killeen ISD superintendent John Craft. “You can become the STEM pioneers of today, just like Google and NASA, who have changed the way we view the world,” he said to assembled students.
Rosie Babin, mother of injured combat medic Alan Babin, explained how the combined efforts of her son’s tenacity to survive, along with the skills of his doctors and technology, not only saved his life, but also has continually improved the quality of his life.
“Alan had 70 abdominal surgeries and four brain surgeries after he was shot in the stomach, trying to pull out another soldier on the battle field,” said Babin of her son, who attended the ceremony. “He is continually working to always get better, and through the use of medicine, technology and sports, he has been able to regain his freedom.”
Babin challenged the students to focus on their abilities and to find out how they can positively impact the world around them.
Medal recipients Littrell and Petry shared their stories, encouraging students to work hard and decide how they want to impact the world.
While the Tribute to Valor Foundation’s prime focus is on students engaged in STEM curriculum, they also look for opportunities to impact and influence all students.
“What a humbling experience to be around Medal of Honor recipients and those who have fought and are currently fighting for this country,” Craft said.
“STEM education is critical to the growth of this country. We will find a cure for cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases,” he said. “We just have to be brave enough to accept the challenge.”
The Tribute to Valor Foundation was established in 2018 to inspire students in STEM curriculum to understand and engage the values of character shared by the Medal of Honor Society Character Development Program. Those values are courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity and commitment.
The Foundation works with school districts to bring Medal of Honor recipients to schools to meet with the nation’s next generation of leaders.