BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Elaine Jefferson-Blevins served in the United States Navy for 20 years and is now the principal’s secretary at Clarkston Junior High School.
For her service to the U.S., she was honored and recognized by the school last Thursday during a special Veteran’s Day ceremony.
“This day means that they care,” said Blevins. “This is just fantastic (to be recognized), and they all did such a wonderful job. I love it. It is very special to be recognized here where I work, especially by the kids.”
While in the military, Blevins received two Navy and Marine Corps commendation medals, four Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals, three meritorious unit commendation medals, five good conduct medals, a National Defense service medal, six Navy and Marine Corps overseas service ribbons, a Desert Storm medal, seven Silver Wreath awards, and is an enlisted aviation warfare specialist.
“No regrets at all,” Blevins said. “I told someone the other day that if I wasn’t so old, they’d take me back in a heartbeat.”
She decided to move to Clarkston when she left the military, and her husband Larry arrived with their eight children (four girls, four boys) first. He accidentally enrolled them in the wrong school, and she ended up working at North Sashabaw Elementary School before moving over to CJHS and working there the last 15 years. Blevins works in the main office and handles everything from discipline, phone calls, parents, absent teachers, and sick students.
Blevins touched on how the Clarkston community has impacted her personally.
“It means a lot that everyone recognizes and respects the older people,” she said. “That’s what I love about being here. They all know what the older people do to help them, and I just love that.”
Trained in Orlando, Fla., Blevins was stationed at Groton, Conn., Rota, Spain, Buffalo, N.Y., Iceland, and Charleston, S.C., where she grew up. Blevins said her favorite base she was stationed at was Iceland because she felt everybody was one, all together as one family.
After graduating from Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., with a degree in Elementary Education, she taught for several years before moving back home to help her mother with her father, who was sick. Once her father passed away, Blevins needed a break to clear her mind and chose the military as this outlet.
She originally joined the Navy on a four-year contract, but after that service time, Blevins was asked to stay several times and wound up serving 20 years and six days.
Several CJHS students gave speeches at the event, including ninth graders Hannah Budzynski and Andy Hakala, who spoke about Veteran’s Day as a whole.
“Veterans not only sacrificed the time they spent in the military, (but) they also gave up what they didn’t get to do or have,” Hakala said. “I think people think if you say ‘thank you’ or attend a generic parade they think they have done all they can. Maybe my grandpa (Jerry, who has a wooden leg and a hook for an arm after stepping on a land mine) feels really honored when people walk up to him and say ‘thank you for your service.’ He probably feels honored because that is the kind of guy he is, but more often I feel annoyed because many times it comes across like an empty gesture.
“I often wonder how many people really think about what he really gave up for them that day in the hills of Vietnam. Most people I know don’t really know anything about what military service truly means or have ever talked with a former service member about life in the military.”
“Many veterans have a hard time adjusting after military service,” added Budzynski. “After coming back from war, veterans may have issues inserting themselves into normal society. Not only do they struggle with many mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, etcetera, but many have financial struggles as well, leaving many homeless and/or unstable. About 11 percent of the homeless population are veterans. Obviously, they also struggle with getting used to just everyday life, after adjusting to military conditions. It’s important to honor those people that put themselves on the line, not only physically but mentally.
“They are willing to risk everything to fight, even though it greatly affected them.”
Judge Gerry McNally, who is 90 years old and served in the Air Force, was also recognized at the event but was unable to attend.
PHOTO: Elaine Jefferson-Blevins, middle, blue sweater, Clarkston Junior High principal’s secretary, is recognized by ELA teacher Erin Shaw, to Blevins’ right, and students at CJHS after a Veteran’s Day ceremony last Thursday at the school. Blevins served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Photo by Matt Mackinder