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Parents group helps NMMI students with uniforms

Col. David West, in middle at back, stands with members of the Tohatchi Color Guard after NMMI provided uniforms to the group. (Submitted Photo)

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Some students in northern New Mexico now have uniforms for their color guard duties due to efforts of staff and a parents group of the New Mexico Military Institute.

The Tohatchi Color Guard is a group of 18 middle and high school students, from the sixth to the 12th grade, who regularly present the U.S. and New Mexico flags at football and basketball games, parades and chamber and community events in their area north of Gallup.

“We practice and work together each Friday,” said David McLaughlin, the group leader. “We are teaching them respect, honor and dedication, not only for themselves but for other people.”

He added that the group offers an opportunity for students from Tohatchi Middle School and Tohatchi High School to learn leadership skills.

“Parents say they can see a change in attitude as well as grades,” McLaughlin said.

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The group was formed about two years ago by a veteran, Glen White Eagle, which was about the time McLaughlin became involved. The group does not qualify yet as a junior Reserves Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) because of the small number of participants, but part of its mission is to instill in students a respect for veterans and military service.

New Mexico Military Institute got involved after receiving a call in August from Brig. Gen. Jack Fox, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veteran Services, according to Col. David West, NMMI chief of staff.

NMMI learned that the color guard needed uniforms, so Molly Boyles, a local businesswoman and a member of the NMMI Parents Club, set to work, becoming what West calls the “rock star of the day.”

Boyles coordinates a uniform exchange program at NMMI so that cadets can receive used clothing and accessories rather than purchase new ones when they enroll at the Institute.

In this case, she obtained and cleaned suitable uniforms, shoes, belts and other items, labeling each clothing item with its size.

On Sept. 21, West delivered the uniforms, as well as backpacks with NMMI information and items, to Tohatchi students.

McLaughlin said that 15 of the 18 color guard members now have uniforms as a result.

“What a great group of young people,” West wrote to Boyles, NMMI staff and some others, noting the gratitude the color guard members expressed.

Another uniform donation in the spring is probable, West indicated, adding that there were discussions of Tohatchi students visiting the Institute as well.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.