Cherokee JROTC Obstacle Course dedicated in honor of Cherokee hero

by May 2, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – JROTC students at Cherokee High School (CHS) for years to come will go on an obstacle course, dubbed “Reuben’s Run”, that has been dedicated to a hero of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  The PFC Reuben Taylor JROTC Obstacle Course was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on the morning of Tuesday, May 2 at the school.

PFC Reuben Taylor, left, cuts the ribbon to officially open the JROTC Obstacle Course at Cherokee High School named in his honor on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 2. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

PFC Taylor served in the U.S. Army from 1942-47 in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.  At the age of 16, he entered basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C. on Aug. 13, 1942.  He then attended Paratrooper Training at Fort Benning, Ga. after which he was assigned to the then-newly formed 82nd Airborne Division.

In 1943, PFC Taylor was deployed to Casablanca, North Africa after which they went back to Europe.  He was a part of Operation Market-Garden, also known as the Invasion of Holland, on Sept. 17, 1944.  Several months later, he and his fellow soldiers took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

Dr. Heath Robertson, Cherokee Central Schools CTE/STEAM director, opened the program in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center.  “When deciding who to honor with the dedication of this course, to me there was no better choice. I knew from day one who I wanted to honor with the dedication. Collectively, we felt that this needed to be dedicated to an Army veteran as our ROTC is an Army ROTC. But, we also wanted someone who exemplifies what it means not only to be a soldier, but a good example of what a good citizen and person should be.”

“It was stressed that we need to honor a hero that our students can not only see but can actually talk to…someone that they can ask advice from, hear their words, and shake their hand…In my mind, there isn’t any other person that is more deserving of this honor than PFC Reuben E. Taylor.”

PFC Taylor sits on stage during the honoring in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center. A photo of him from his Army days is shown on the left.

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, a Marine Corps veteran, commented, “The Cherokees have always had a reputation for being fierce warriors… These were warriors that were strong in mind, strong in body. Many of you, whether you realize it or not, descend from a long line of warriors. I’m very proud of the fact that I come from a family of veterans.”

Chief Sneed said he was a member of the first JROTC class at CHS, and he addressed the cadets present during Tuesday’s event.  “It falls to your generation to take up the challenge. Will you be the warriors of tomorrow? You must prepare today. That is what this obstacle course represents – preparation, challenging yourself, pushing yourself in order to become stronger so that you can be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.”

He praised PFC Taylor noting, “These men and women that we know as the greatest generation are the children of the Great Depression. They literally came from nothing.”

“The values that I speak of are exemplified and personified by the heroes of our past and present, which is why it was stated that it is fitting and appropriate that we take time to acknowledge their accomplishments while they are still with us. So, today we honor Mr. Reuben Taylor. We also need to memorialize the accomplishments of those who have completed their journey.”

The obstacle course itself was built by students in Matt Maney’s woodworking class at CHS.  “I teach wood shop at Cherokee High School and they (SFC Tremko, LTC Carter, and Dr. Robertson) came to us and asked us if we would be interested in helping do this project, the obstacle course. I thought, ‘man, that would be a great opportunity for my students to get out of the classroom, get out and see some real stuff and start from the ground up, get to do a little bit of construction ‘. It’s enjoyable to be outside with these guys.”

He thanked everyone for their hard work on the project.  “I want to thank all of our students that worked with us. I want to thank the JROTC students who got out there and dug holes…I appreciate them. I appreciate my classes…they did a good job helping us do what needed to be done.”

Annie Mora, an eighth-grade cadet in Cherokee Central Schools’ Army JROTC program, navigates part of the obstacle course.

“I appreciate all of our students for being willing to put in the time and the effort. I felt like they learned a lot. It was a great experience as far as my class goes.”

Maney added, “When I realized what this obstacle course was going to do for the JROTC program, how vital it could be and how important it was to the JROTC program to do this, I was excited to be a part of it even more. I realized the importance of that and how it was going to benefit them. I was just glad to get to be a part of it and our students got to be a part of that because it’s always about helping each other out…I hope it serves everybody well for generations to come. We built it so it would last.”

Sgt. First Class (Ret.) Jason Tremko, CHS JROTC instructor, commented, “We put our minds together to get this obstacle course done. It happened within two months and that really started with Mr. Heath Robertson. He’s a doer. He gets things done…It was a lot of hard work, but it was well worth it.”

In speaking of PFC Taylor, he noted, “It’s really an honor to be in his presence today as we honor him. He was, and still is, a hero and a soldier to this day. Only an Airborne soldier knows what it truly means to be called a paratrooper and to live by the term Airborne each and every day. It is our effort to instill the values of Reuben Taylor and the Airborne Creed to every JROTC cadet that attempts to do the obstacle course that will now be known as ‘Reuben’s Run’.”

Devan Bottchenbaugh, a tenth-grade cadet in Cherokee Central School’s Army JROTC program, goes over the wall on the obstacle course.

Lt. Col. (Ret.) William Carter, CHS JROTC senior instructor, said, “What a great day to honor a great man from the greatest generation…PFC Reuben E. Taylor’s devotion to duty and willing self-sacrifice reflect honor on himself and the calls of the highest traditions of military service.”

PFC Taylor received many awards and decorations for his military service including: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, French Croix de Guerre, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Senior Parachutist Badge.

Following the program in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center, the honoring moved to the obstacle course itself for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony performed by PFC Taylor.