Veterans Day: Campbell teacher shares stories with students

Petty Officer 2nd Class Julio Owen Francis was from Maryland.

He was a sailor and an electronics technician in the Navy, assigned to the submarine USS City of Corpus Christi.

Francis was a bit of a renaissance man. He liked music. He read books. He knew a lot about sports and was an athlete everyone would want on their team. He once personalized his room on base by painting inspirational quotes on the walls.

He was a writer and a remarkable conversationalist.

Francis was the kind of guy who spent some time with someone and listened. He was in his early 20s.

On one afternoon, while stationed on shore in Guam, a heavy tropical rain came down and instead of seeking shelter or protective gear, Francis walked out into the middle of the pier, looked up at the heavens and squalled at the sky as if to say, “Mother Nature, you put rain on my station, but this is my ship. And I am out here and I am alive.”

He would have been a good father. He was an introvert to an extent but centered and compassionate. He was always curious, and living life to the fullest.

On April 20, 2006, Francis disappeared. His vehicle was found at Tarague Beach on Andersen Air Force Base.

It’s believed Francis, 23, was snorkeling in the area, where turbulent seas and high winds may have contributed to an accident. Days later, he was presumed dead following an intensive weeklong search.

Jason Ashburn, a social studies teacher at Campbell Junior High School, told Francis’s story during the Veterans Day ceremony Monday.

Ashburn, a Navy veteran, was stationed alongside Francis for some time.

“I think God I got to meet people from Maryland, and I’m thankful that I got to serve (with) people like Petty Officer Francis,” Ashburn told the crowd.

When Ashburn finished his speech, he led the students in a salute to veterans, and thanked the veterans for their service.

Throughout the Veterans Day ceremony, the George Rogers Clark High School JROTC presented the colors before students led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.

Campbell students went on to give a “21 Thank You” salute to veterans before Ken Howard, Campbell athletic director, sang “Wave on Old Glory.”

Students Joby Mitmesser and Maggie Zeysing talked about Armistice Day, and Silas Coogle read “The Threads of America.”

The orchestra also played “God Bless America” during the ceremony.

Campbell student Evin Carbajal closed the ceremony by playing taps before Principal Dustin Howard invited veterans to stick around for breakfast.

“This is one of our proudest days here at Robert D. Campbell for me, as a principal, to showcase our student body and the greatness it represents, to show honor to you, America’s heroes,” Howard said. “You are people who have put the greater good above the individual wants and needs, giving up things, individual desires to serve our country, our people. Thank you.

“At a time in our country where we lose the sense of selflessness and get caught in selfish, individual, now ‘Me. Me. Me.,’ I can show our students how it’s supposed to be.”