Cumberland Times-News

November 10, 2013

Southern Garrett High JROTC cadets honor area vets in school ceremony

Elaine Blaisdell
Associated Press

— OAKLAND — Students in the Southern High School JROTC program touched on several of their leadership values, such as respect and duty, during a ceremony held at the school in honor of area veterans.

“Respect shows who you are as a person and it also shows what your character is like. You should always respect people even if you are not fond of them,” said Cadet Sgt. Sierra Boatman.

“Duty is very important because you can get a lot of respect from duty. Duty is the best thing you can earn,” said Dylan McGee.

The students planned the entire program, which included a thank you to all the veterans who served, a flag-folding ceremony and several speeches.

“The kids work very hard to put a program together. They did a good job with their speeches. It gives them the chance to utilize a skill they are going to need one day,” said Rob Heilig, commandant with the county Marine Corps League. “The JROTC program gives them a head start if they decide to go into the military.”

Veteran George Perrine, who was a gunnery sergeant in an armored vehicle in the Army and was discharged in March 1947, enjoyed the ceremony and was happy for the recognition.

“Veterans could use another holiday or two,” said Perrine.

Only about 1 percent of JROTC students nationwide graduate and go into the military, according to Ralph Sheaffer Jr., Army instructor at Southern High School.

“JROTC is not designed to convince students to go into the military. It is designed to motivate students to graduate high school and to give respect,” said Sheaffer.

JROTC Cadet Casi Hughes, who provided the closing remarks for the ceremony, doesn’t plan on going into the military. Hughes, who is a junior, plans on becoming an evangelist and preaching the gospel all over the world.

“JROTC teaches us respect, loyalty, how to stand up for ourselves, how to respect our elders and confidence,” said Hughes, who has participated in veterans ceremonies for the past three years.  

The JROTC program also challenges students to become leaders. The students take on leadership roles and teach other cadets about the core values of the JROTC program, according to Hughes.

“JROTC motivates cadets to become better citizens and gives them classes that are linked to life experiences and helps them to experience the six core values,” said Sheaffer.

In 2005, the JROTC program began in Garrett County and ceremonies honoring veterans have been held since 2008, according to Sheaffer.

Southern and Northern high schools’ JROTC programs are the only ones west of Frederick, according to Sheaffer. Each program has two instructors who have retired from the military.

The cadets will also participate in the Veterans Day Parade in Oakland.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.