McCutcheon guest of honor as Southern Prep conducts military parade in honor of first responders
CAMP HILL — Southern Preparatory Academy, formerly Lyman Ward Military Academy, conducted a military parade in honor of America’s first responders and in remembrance of 9/11 on Thursday. Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), an Army veteran and former policeman, was the guest of honor.
McCutcheon said that after America was attacked on 9/11, “the first responders were on the front lines. While people were running away from the danger the first responders were running to it.”
“That is a statement that we should always remember when it comes to talking about the type of individuals that our first responders are,” he continued.
Southern Prep is the State of Alabama’s official military academy. It enrolls around 100 boarding students across grades 6-12. The institution changed its name from Lyman Ward Military Academy to Southern Preparatory Academy in 2019. The Thursday event was the second annual First Responders Parade and 9/11 remembrance put on by the academy.
Heath Norrell, battalion commander for the Corps of Cadets, was born in 2002 and, as such, does not have direct memories of 9/11. He told Yellowhammer News that his experience at Southern Prep had increased his appreciation for first responders.
“The first responders, they sacrifice their lives,” he remarked. “A bunch of the employees we have here have been retired policemen. They’ve been in law enforcement. I’ve gotten to know those kinds of people, and they’ve really made a huge impact on my life.”
Speaker McCutcheon was invited to play a role in the ceremony. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he also spent 25 years in the Huntsville Police Department and studied criminal justice in college.
“Probably the first time he’s done some marching in a little while,” joked Lt. Colonel Jared Norrell, the president of Southern Prep, in his introduction of the speaker.
“We’re honored to have him here. I can think of nobody better to have here on a day to honor first responders,” Norrell added.
Norrell has been with Southern Prep since 2014 and took over as president in 2017. He told Yellowhammer News that on 9/11, he was a member of the Army Rangers stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington.
“Within less than 30 days, I was on an airplane to Afghanistan,” he stated.
Norrell further told Yellowhammer his young cadets’ impression of 9/11 is similar to the relationship his generation has with Pearl Harbor.
McCutcheon made the keynote address of the day, speaking to both the assembled cadets and a crowd of around 200 members of the public.
“We support our first responders here in the state of Alabama,” he promised.
McCutcheon continued, “Many cities and many communities across this country are experiencing things like defunding the police department, lawlessness, riots, destruction.”
“Our values here in Alabama are strong … we respect and stand for all of our first responders. We still respect what this country stands for and we honor our flag,” the speaker advised.
McCutcheon noted that a “first responder will sacrifice themselves for the sake of someone else.”
“Honestly, that is something you don’t find in people like you used to, but that’s something we must never forget,” he warned.
Yellowhammer News asked the speaker where he was on 9/11. McCutcheon responded that he was working for the City of Huntsville at the time and was visiting with his pastor when he first heard the news.
He added that seeing young people at Southern Prep demonstrate respect for first responders was “very rewarding. ”
“It really touches my heart and brings up a sense of pride about who we are as Americans,” McCutcheon stated.