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Children Learn About Freedom's Cost During National Guard Docudrama

May 11, 2007 — The children of V.I. National Guard soldiers deployed overseas, high school kids in JROTC and several youth groups were treated to an evening of ceremony, entertainment, a movie and dinner — all served with an anti-drug message at the Lionel A. Jackson Armory Friday evening.
A group from the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. is going to guard bases in all the states and territories, showing the guard’s new 45-minute anti-drug docudrama “Freedom Calls."
Friday's event focused on the unique challenges faced by the families and children of guardsmen and women who are sent overseas.
Before the movie, Adj. Gen.-designee Renaldo Rivera spoke to the kids.
“You’re welcome here anytime — so long as you don’t do drugs,” Rivera said. “If you need someone to talk to, come see me. My door is open.”
Rivera ended with a directive to the adults in the audience: “We’ve got to protect our children no matter what.”
After Rivera and several others spoke a few words, Capt. Glenda Mathurin-Lee, who began the ceremony, returned to the microphone to introduce the movie.
“The children of our guardsmen overseas pay a tough price, with a parent overseas and not there for you,” Mathurin-Lee said. “We understand, and you’re at home here. So there’s hot popcorn popping right now and it's movie night, so let’s have fun.”
The movie focused in particular on the situation of many military families and how to cope with having a parent who is suddenly called overseas for many months at a time, and how to be there for your kids if you are the one that’s away. To make its message, the film documented the stories of three teenagers dealing with the temptations to party, drink and get high, dramatizing their real-life situations to make a message.
In one story, a young lady with a parent overseas in the military started to huff solvents and became addicted. She nearly killed herself with prescription pills before entering a treatment program and cleaning up.
All of the stories linked the idea of personal freedom to the freedom that U.S. soldiers fight and die for; and that getting high ultimately takes our freedom, in the sense of free will, away from us.
After the movie, Military Family Life Consultant Vanessa Villafane asked for volunteers from among the young people in the audience to come up and tell what part of the movie had an impact on them. Half a dozen kids, from high school age down to early elementary school bravely came up to the microphone and said their piece.
Two soldiers from the National Guard Bureau in D.C. were there to document the nationwide tour of “Freedom Calls.” One, Staff Sgt. Curtis Cooksey, happens to have been born and raised on St. Thomas and graduated from Charlotte Amalie High in ’97. He and Chief Warrant Officer Jules Hobbie are also documenting the Virgin Islands' own highly regarded counter-drug education program.
“The Virgin Islands has a unique 'Coole School' program that has been an enormous success,” Cooksey said. “It’s a good-news story for us to take and use to show other states what can be done.”
The movie wasn’t the only entertainment that night. Seven young gentlemen of the Grove Place Weed and Seed Banjo and Calypso Group, led by the legendary Camille “King Derby” Macedon, played several numbers. Macedon seriously burned up that banjo, and the young kids held up the rhythm end like pros. Then a group of young ladies with the New Testament Church of God Jr. Pantomime Group performed a choreographed routine to the hip-hop song “Stomp.”
When all the entertainment and the speaking were done, everyone lined up at the buffet for a big dinner before the kids and their parents began to head home for the night.
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