Wando JROTC Holds Annual Memorial for Wando Alumnus Richard Cliff

Eva Chillura, Staff Writer

Wando Warrior Richard Cliff gave his life while serving in the military in 2008, and every year since, his name is shown on a plaque on school grounds and a ceremony is held in his honor by JROTC on Sept. 26.

JROTC held its annual memorial for the Wando graduate, Richard Cliff.  The ceremony was in the early morning consisting of the entire JROTC class and teachers and students.

Senior Reed Way, Wind Commander, took the lead at the ceremony, speaking and writing the majority of the speeches, and he also gave commands to some of his other classmates as well.

“We had to get some info, so we contacted [Cliff’s] family about him and found him online… so we could write the speeches,” Way said.

During the speeches, the memory of Cliff was light-hearted and the students spoke fondly of him even having never met him.  

“While he didn’t come home to us, we are sure he went home to heaven,” Way said as a part of his speech in the ceremony.

Way and his other classmates said that throughout their years of high school, the JROTC leaders have tried to relay Cliff’s story so he would not be forgotten and because “these kinds of things, unfortunately, happen all of the time,” Major John Farese, JROTC instructor, said.

“In general we talk about, you know, the effects of the conflict [the U.S.] has had over the years, personally and as a member of the community,” Farese added.

The students spoke about how, a week after Cliff’s son was born, he had to leave his infant son and wife behind to be deployed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  One JROTC student spoke about the American flag as two other members folded the flag over the memorial plaque site next to Wando’s cafeteria.

Silence and strict order was very prominent in the memorial for Cliff.  JROTC students were always in line, orderly and doing what they were told to do. It seemed as if some parts of the ceremony were long, drawn out moments of silence.

As the years pass since Cliff died in battle, the memorials have had “dwindling” amounts of students and teachers Farese said.

“We used to have bigger crowds in the ceremony… A part of [not having large crowds now] is now the announcements are done via email… A lot of the kids don’t get to hear it… I would love it if the whole school showed up [for the ceremony],” Farese said.

Being mostly student-led, the memorial for Richard Cliff went smoothly and lasted 20 minutes.  Despite being short and simple, JROTC honored Cliff with respect, much like the actual military would.

“I think it’s pretty powerful the 10 years after he died, we’re still remembering him,” JROTC student Cole Martin said.