Today I’m visiting Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida to visit with the Cadets of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) unit. I try to visit JROTC units wherever I travel, because truth be told, my purpose and direction in life started in JROTC back at Henry Grady High School in Atlanta in 1976.The importance of this program, along with Young Marines and Navy Sea Cadets is invaluable to the future of America. Here is where we develop the next generation of principled, courageous, and patriotic leaders for our nation. Here is where we hone our young people in the areas of discipline, dedication, and establish within them a sense of pride and purpose. I was fortunate to get all of this in the inner city of Atlanta. Sadly, across the nation today, we see widespread failure and lack of respect for authority. To this day, I still remember the men who were my JROTC instructors: Lieutenant Colonel Pagonis, Major Heredia, Master Sergeant Buchanan, and Sergeant First Class McMichael.
Fortunately for me I had both a mom and dad at home, but I also had these exceptional men, combat veterans from Korea and Vietnam, who kept me on the right path. They saw something in me as a young teenager I didn’t realize I had in myself. I believe, I know, that the next generation of great military and civilian leaders are there in our high schools wearing the respective uniforms of our nation’s armed services.
It’s critical that we alumni of JROTC go back and be living examples for these young men and women. Therefore, I challenge everyone out there who was once a JROTC Cadet to go back to your school and speak to the current group of Cadets. I implore you to give them a target to aim for, and provide a goal for which they can strive to achieve. Let these young men and women know the greatness of America and that they do not and should not have to settle for anything less. Don’t let these young men and women end up following examples so prevalent in our culture, which are not so positive.