Lt. Col. John Owens preparing for final parade with BC's ROTC - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lt. Col. John Owens prepares for final parade with BC's ROTC

Lt. Col. John Owens Lt. Col. John Owens

The route will be the same. The Cadets as sharply outfitted as ever.

But the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade will be different for Lt. Col. John Owens this year, as he marches for the final time in an official capacity with the Benedictine ROTC.

"I think next year,'' said Owens, who has led the school's program since 1986, "I'll try it out by watching from my soft chair on TV. I've never had that opportunity.''

Owens is retiring after this school year, and after 31 parades, four as a Cadet and 27 as the Senior Army Instructor of BC's ROTC, which remains strong despite no longer being mandatory for all four years, but instead only for freshmen and sophomores.

"One of the ways I gauge the success of our program is how many kids stay on,'' says Owens. "Only 10 in our school aren't in the program. So I'd say it's pretty successful right now.''

And it has been for three the last decades due to the leadership of Owens, who has molded as much as he's taught, turning good boys into better men.

"It's been a great experience. The mission is to motivate young people to be better Americans,'' said Owens. "I've had men that are full colonels in the Air Force, in the Army. I've got one guy that is a battalion commander right now at Fort Stewart. I've had guys that are Navy Seals, F-18 pilots.''

Owens is the man behind them all.

On Saturday, he'll try to be the man behind the scenes for BC's parade unit, once again trying to stay out of the shot when one of the highlights of the parade comes into the camera's view.

"I try not to stand out,'' said Owens. "It's their parade. It's about them, it's not about me. I'm like the head coach, my cadre's the other coaches and they're the players. So I want it focused on them.''

And while he'll certainly relax after marching a few miles Saturday, Owens won't be slowing down any in retirement.

"I'm looking forward to staying in link with my school, staying in link with a lot of the guys I went to school with, do a lot of reading, gardening, ride my motorcycle, fish, crab,'' said Owens. "There'll always be something to do.''

Just not on St. Patrick's Day after this one.

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