By Capt. Lesley Kipling
STUART, Va. -- On a typical Saturday night students from Patrick County High School hang out at Hardees, Lowes and Food Lion, the few places in town that are open past 8:00 p.m. The nearest movie theater is 40 minutes away.
“There is nothing to do around here,” explained Alice Gregory, 14. “I usually just hang our around the house,” where she talks on the phone with her friends or surfs the Internet.
National Guard member, Staff Sgt. Douglas Perry, whose civilian job is the School Resource Officer at PCHS., wanted to find an activity that the students would enjoy, in a friendly safe environment.
“Being over at the high school, I see a need for something for the kids in the area to do,” Perry said.
Perry chose this movie because he and other Virginia Guard Soldiers had served as extras on the set. Before the movie, Perry narrated a slide show of photos taken on the set in Lexington. Pictures of their School Resource Officer in his BDUs standing besides Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg fascinated students.
“That is so cool,” one student declared.
Perry explained that he had driven a military vehicle loaded with soldiers and stunt men on the set. Perry drove one of the trucks that splashed Tom Cruise and Justin Chatwin (who plays Cruise’s son) when their characters were arguing by the side of the road. Until then many of the students had not known that Perry and other National Guard soldiers were in the movie.
After the slide show, the movie began. About half of the audience had never seen the movie before and everyone watched intently as alien creatures began attacking the earth. As the first images of National Guard soldiers came across the screen, the entire audience let out a big cheer. Perry had been driving one of the military vehicles.
After the movie, students questioned Perry and other National Guard members about their experiences serving in the National Guard. Perry feels it is important that students in Patrick County know what the Guard has to offer. “The Guard has a lot of opportunities. In this area a lot of kids, financially, won’t have the opportunity to go onto college. Jobs are scare here. Economically there’s just not a lot going on and the Guard offers a lot of opportunities,” Perry said. “The military’s done a lot for me personally and it’s an avenue that students can use to better themselves in life.”
The students left having had a fun evening relaxing watching the “War of the Worlds,” and learning about opportunities available in the National Guard.
Alice’s mother Donna Gregory came in to thank the Perry for putting the event together. “In a rural area, it is good to have extra things that you know are well chaperoned and kids can get together,” Gregory said. “I appreciate you all doing this.”