Alumnus returns home to celebrate Batesburg-Leesville veterans

Members of the high school’s JROTC Panther Battalion file past Col. Jonathan Robinson during ceremonies in the school gymnasium. (Staff photos by Tony Baughman)

A graduate of Batesburg-Leesville High School – one whose change of heart nearly two decades ago led to a distinguished military career — helped her alma mater celebrate Veterans Day and honor others who served our country.

U.S. Army Major Partrese L. Barr was the keynote speaker Monday morning at the Army JROTC Panther Battalion’s annual Veterans Day Program. The event paid tribute to nearly 30 veterans gathered in the school gymnasium from around Batesburg-Leesville, representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Batesburg-Leesville High graduate Maj. Partrese L. Barr speaks to cadets, students and fellow veterans during Monday’s Veterans Day ceremonies.

“It was amazing. I was so delighted,” Maj. Barr said. “It’s always great to come back and speak to people I went to school with, kind of a reunion, and also to speak to our future generation.”

In her remarks, Maj. Barr challenged the students of Batesburg-Leesville to look to the examples set by military veterans who sacrificed and served in defense of the American way of life. The values so often exhibited by military personnel would serve them well in any endeavor of life, she said.

“Initially, I swore that I would never join the military,” Maj. Barr confessed. “It was not for me. I didn’t want to do it…Initially, I joined for the educational benefits, I must be honest, but after the first six-year contract ended, I got more out of it. I learned more about what it means to wear the uniform, the pride associated with the military and giving back to the country.”

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Maj. Barr holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California. She currently serves as Executive Officer of the 351st Aviation Support Battalion of the South Carolina Army National Guard, stationed at Sumter.

One of her former teachers at Batesburg-Leesville High, the Rev. Dr. Teddy Higgins, was among the veterans recognized at Monday’s ceremony. The Rev. Higgins, now the vicar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Batesburg, is an Air Force veteran.

“It’s really nice to see that people do care about our veterans and do look forward to either serving our country or having the freedoms that they have because of what people like us have all done,” the Rev. Higgins said. “Being a teacher here before, and seeing the ceremony that these kids put on, is amazing. It’s very rewarding and it’s uplifting, not just for the veterans but for the students who are here who might have an idea of becoming a service member.”

Monday’s ceremony included the playing of a medley featuring the songs of each Armed Forces branch and a march-and-review by members of the high school JROTC. Maj. Barr and the Panther Battalion advisor, Col. Jonathan Robinson, both participated in an inspection of the high school cadets as part of the program.

Maj. Barr said she hopes that the cadets, as well as non-uniformed students sitting in the gymnasium bleachers, took from Monday’s ceremony a greater appreciation for the value of serving America in its military.

“I’m hoping that they see the pride associated with the military, that they look at the veterans that came out today to share the story of their service, to look at how many veterans they have right here in this community and the impact they have made,” she said. “And that they can look to them and talk to them and realize that the military is a great choice, how important that military service is.”

Story by Tony Baughman / Published November 14, 2019