Volunteers say Young Marine program would be boon to youth

Published 9:34 am Thursday, October 16, 2014


A local resident is working to bring a youth leadership program to Carter County and on Tuesday, he presented his idea to the Carter County Board of Education.
Mike Johnson is in the process of starting a unit of the Young Marines program in Carter County, and while the program will not be affiliated with the school system, he said he hopes the board will allow the program to place recruitment information in the schools.
Johnson attended a workshop meeting of the board on Tuesday along with Virgil Young, commander of the Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Unit in Knoxville.
Young said while the program is called Young Marines, it is not a recruitment tool for the United States Marine Corps and it is not an ROTC program.
“We are trying to turn out youth who will be good citizens using the Marine Corps method,” Young said. “It is a youth service and education program for children ages eight through high school graduation.”
He said the program is not “the junior Marines,” adding the program doesn’t teach combat tactics but participants do take part in physical training and drilling.
According to Young, the program focuses on civic leadership and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Young Marines organization’s website lists the group’s mission statement as: “The mission of the Young Marines is to positively impact America’s future by providing quality youth development programs for boys and girls that nurtures and develops its members into responsible citizens who enjoy and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.”
Young Marines is a national program, Young said, and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. He said the national officers of the program are paid but all of the other individuals involved in the more than 300 chapters across the country are volunteers.
“I spend the time in this program that I do because I’ve seen kids grow up in this program and I’ve seen the change it has made in them,” Young said, adding many of the children in the program do not have a good family support structure in place. “A lot of these kids wouldn’t be where they are today without this program.
“I guarantee you they are better young adults and young citizens than they were before they started this program,” he added.
Both Johnson and Young pointed out the program is not like the “boot camps” that are court-ordered for some youths to attend.
“This is not a detention center,” Johnson said. “The kids that come into this program have to be good kids.”
Johnson and Young, both veterans of the Marine Corps, stressed how important volunteers are to the success of the program.
“I need volunteers to help with this,” Johnson said, adding he hopes to get the unit approved and started after the first of the year.
“You don’t have to be ex-military to do this,” Johnson said, adding volunteers must be adults and must be able to pass a criminal background check.
Johnson and Young also both have law enforcement backgrounds.
After his military service, Young spent 28 years working with the FBI. Johnson has worked as a reserve deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department since 2008.
“This is supported by the Sheriff’s Department,” Johnson told the board, adding Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, also a former Marine, supports the program.
For more information on the Young Marines program you can visit the organization’s website at www.youngmarines.com.

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