Lt. Col. Thad Trapp, a 1985 Waxahachie High School graduate, who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps since 1989, spoke to the class of 2012 Friday morning, sharing with them principles for living.

“It’s an honor to be back in this place – I’m a lifelong Indian and member of the Tribe.”

Trapp, who has served on humanitarian missions in three countries since being in the Marines, assured the attentive high-schoolers he knew the capabilities of young men and women like them.

Projecting the number “24” on the over head screen, he asked, “What will you do with the 24 hours that are given to you today? Everyone, from the president on down to all of us, has the same amount of time every day.”

For the next 20 minutes, he spoke to the teens about core values, saying the Marines teach honor, courage and commitment.

“But the foundation to those values are character and respect,” he said. “Character determines how you deal with choices every day. Everyone has a need for acceptance and some kids will sacrifice everything, including their character to be accepted.”

Trapp emphasized the need for respect and noted that mutual respect was much better.

“Without mutual respect, there is no respect,” he said. “If you have a teacher or a mentor that demands respect from you, but fails to acknowledge your hard work and character, then it’s difficult to respect them.”

Trapp discussed the horrors of 9/11 and the motives behind terrorism.

“I’ve served in three combat tours during the past nine years and I can tell you for sure that there are people in this world that have vowed to destroy the freedom of the west,” he said. “It’s important that we teach our children to understand this.”

Trapp illustrated his message on character by citing a Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who entered a “kill zone” six times during one day in a battle in Iraq, saving the lives of 13 Marines and 23 Iraqi soldiers and received the Medal of Honor.

After the assembly, WHS principal David Nix led the hundreds of students out of the Fine Arts Center out to the back parking lot where they participated in a balloon release in memory of the 2,977 people who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.