By Jessica Easthope
Graduates of St. Francis Prep have gone on to serve in the military since the Civil War. More than 150 years and more than 400 veterans later, the school is celebrating a dozen of its brave alumni.
Air Force Major Jophiel Philips spoke to students ahead of Veterans Day and said his time at the school shaped his military career.
“It prepared me for a life of service,” said Major Philips. “St Francis Prep, their ethos is ‘how can you serve’ and I carry that with me throughout my life and now I’m in the Air Force and I put my nation’s uniform on every day.”
Back in 1999, Major Philips was a football player who admits he didn’t have the best grades, now he works under the Secretary of the Air Force, helping to protect our nation’s freedom at Andrews Air Force Base.
But Major Philips has a very clear message to send to students. He realized what America was all about the day he almost died when an IED exploded at the gate of his camp in Afghanistan in 2015.
A fellow service member put his life on the line to save his and despite being unarmed and severely injured, Major Philips shielded another service members from attackers wearing suicide vests.
“I was down range and somebody helped me and I hope to impart that on them. We work together. We uplift each other and that’s what makes our nation so great,” he said.
Among the students listening to his story, Raejin Jeong, a senior waiting for his acceptance letter to West Point.
“I found what they do very inspiring and what they do for this country, the sacrifices, the hard work. Those are just values I found very attractive and it’s something I want to pursue,” said Raejin.
Diane Haussermann, the chair of the social studies department, says having these vets share their experiences shows students what real sacrifice looks like.
“We’re hoping this will inspire not only some patriotism but also that sense of community. It’s nice for them to come back and for us to honor them,” she said.
This Veterans Day, St. Francis Prep is starting a year-long fundraiser for America’s VetDogs to sponsor a service dog for a veteran suffering with PTSD or a physical disability.
To help St. Francis Prep sponsor a service dog for a veteran in need you can donate at the school’s website, sfponline.org