There has been a secret brewing amongst the 98 cadets in the local Cardinal Battalion since the first month of school, which culminated on the last day of school before the holiday. The cadets caught their instructors off guard at the annual extra-curricular teams’ holiday party, which includes the 40 students that go above and beyond competing on the Raider, Color Guard or Drill Teams.
The cadets had a pretty significant secret too! They think so highly of their JROTC retired military instructors - William Sands and George Snyder - that they wanted to give them a Christmas gift that would not be disposable and really mean something for the program that is celebrating its 25th year at Wayne County High School. They managed to touch their teachers’ hearts in a very special way this holiday season by presenting them with a new Garrison Flag.
JROTC Cadet Captain Wesley Weston took the lead in conducting a secret fundraiser that would raise $1,500 for a full size Garrison Flag. “We’ve actually had the idea since last year. We wanted to replace the smaller sized 20' x 30' Garrison Flag that had cost $800 fifteen years ago."
"Our instructors have done nothing but give to this Battalion. I really wanted to give them something that means more than a $20 gift mug. I figured it would mean a lot to be able to purchase a full size flag and retire the existing one.”
JROTC Cadet Captain Wesley Weston, the son of Wendy Adams and James Adams, is a senior and is in his fourth year of the program that has meant so much to him. “This Battalion means more to me than an easy class or for that manner any other class I’ve taken. It has been a family to me. And there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family,” said Weston, who plans to major in criminal justice and and hopefully earning an associate degree in computer science at Eastern Kentucky University. “This matters!”
When Cadet Weston first started asking for individual contributions, he said people were a little skeptical to give to a kid. So, with a blessing from his school principal, Justin Alley, who endorsed the project with the school helping with shipping, Weston could be taken seriously as he solicited businesses.
“If it wasn’t for the school with their official endorsement and letterhead, the groups wouldn’t have given to me,” said Weston, who appreciated his principal’s help.
“I’m very proud of Wesley and the other JROTC cadets’ efforts. They did all the work on their own,” said Wayne County High School Principal Justin Alley. “All we did was help out with the ordering.”
“I know that this is very special for them to be able to provide this Garrison flag that is so significant to their program,” said Alley.
Weston said their biggest donor was the local Disabled American Veteran’s Chapter. The organization gave $500 and then the members dug even deeper into their own pockets and came up with $400 extra to contribute to the cause. Likewise, the Wayne County Nicholas Mercer Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution, Citizen’s Bank and Monticello Bank chipped in to the worthwhile project.
Cadet Major Harley Baldwin purchased a giant duffle bag to store the huge flag in. He explained that the cadets took the flag to Pulaski County’s JROTC Battalion and their cadets helped stretch the giant flag measuring 20' x 38' across their football field in order to help properly fold it up to fit into the oversized duffle bag.
“We worked together with the (neighboring) JROTC to create something that was an even bigger mission than just our individual schools,” said Baldwin.
Weston’s fellow Raider Team buddy Adrian Martin had accompanied him to the DAV meeting to ask for help. Adrian’s Dad, Harold Martin, a Vietnam Army veteran and former local police officer, was proud of the cadets' efforts. “These cadets are a special group. They are close knit, they really stand out because of what they do, and all the training they receive.
“I know the DAV really respects what the cadets do at ballgames and parades,” said Martin.
“They do a lot (service learning projects) for the community that not everyone knows about,” he said. “Me and my wife, Ruth, went with them on a trash pick-up out at Turkey Creek in the summer. First Sergeant had sack lunches we helped pass out. And a lot of times, they pick up trash on Michigan Avenue all the way to the McCreary County line. They take food to the shut-ins at Thanksgiving….”
“JROTC is the best thing that ever was,” said Martin, who is one of the many appreciative cadet parents.
“This program has really helped Adrian. “He works with children at church and teaches them physical training at the 21st Century After School program,” explained Martin.
At the holiday pizza party, all 40 cadets congregated at school in their headquarters. Each of the cadets received sweatshirts with the Cardinal Battalion’s original logo on the front. The students kidded with each other, exchanging quips and enjoying being together, before the traditional gift giving ceremony.
Battalion Commander C/LTC Taylor Bell started by saying, “Thank you for being here. Without you, the battalion would not be the same.”
All three of the team leaders (Phillip Shelton, Anthony Catron and Trent McGuire) told the cadets they had been experiencing a great year, and expressed their love for each of the members. “I love and respect my brothers and sisters here,” noted C/CPT Phillip Shelton.
After much suspense, Weston followed suit speaking about their great instructors as he announced the climactic gift – a new Garrison Flag that was nearly the size of a football field. “It was hard for their instructors to respond to such a mature and thoughtful gesture.
It was another day of young people learning responsibility in a caring atmosphere, benefitting from a terrific public education at Wayne County Schools.
Cadets show off their sweatshirts with the battalion's original logo that they received for Christmas.
L-R: Brooklyn Bray, Destanie McGuire, Sierra Stacy, Leah Ramsey, Keesha Brown
CW4 William Sands talks with the cadets before the party
The JRTOC cadets enjoyed a cake during the party
L-R: Battalion Commander Taylor Bell, C/MAJ Adrian Martin, and C/1SG Cameron Walters cut the cake
Mr. Sands checks off his sweatshirt list with C/CPT Wesley Weston during the party
The cadets explain their gift.
L-R: C/CPT Wesley Weston, C/CPT Phillip Shelton, C/CPT Anthony Catron, C/CSM Trent McGuire, C/LTC Taylor Bell
Bell (center) and Weston (right) present the flag to 1SG George Synder (left)
Synder reacts with joy upon receiving the flag
The group smiles together after the party with the Garrison Flag peaking out of it's carrying bag