EHS JROTC raises flags: Program comes full circle with presentation

Published 7:17 pm Thursday, October 7, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com

The JROTC cadets at Elizabethton High stepped out in their uniforms for the first time at the school as the cadet color guard raised American and Tennessee flags on Wednesday while the remaining cadets provided a salute.

Getting the program to this stage “was an absolute ton of work for a lot of people including the cadets,” said Capt. Ryan Presnell, JROTC instructor.

“Today is a really proud day for us to be able to show off that hard work,” Presnell said. “I told them that the uniform is a symbol of pride in our nation so we are not going to do it willy nilly.

“We are going to make sure we do it correctly. A lot of work went into it, but it’s been an awesome job to be able to mentor these kids to the point where they can wear this uniform and be proud of it.”

Presnell, a former Marine, said the Navy’s National Defense Corps, is not intended to be a military recruiting program but more of a leadership program.

“These kids will graduate from high school and become leaders in our community even if they don’t enter the military,” he said. “The United States military is the best leadership organization in the world as far as I am concerned. To teach them the military ways and how things work is just an honor for me.”

Several cadets also shared their thoughts on the importance of the program.
Mikey Shonkwiler will be enlisting in the Air Force and said JROTC provides leadership training. “It’s a good way to funnel discipline and put my attention to something that will help me in going toward that opportunity,” he said. He also encouraged other students to consider the program. “Even if a student isn’t going to enlist in the military, it’s still ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corps, and it’s a good way to learn about military operations and how to be an officer and a leader if circumstances deem it necessary,” he said.
Madison Hodge has been chasing the military dream for a while. “When I was in the eighth grade, they had called everyone who wanted to be in the military experience class and I went to the auditorium and found out more about it and became really interested,” she said. “When I told my parents about it they were like ‘go for it.’”
She will be following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who lost his life in the Vietnam War. It is her way of honoring him and his memory. Presnell has made an impact since Hodge started the program. “I had no idea how you properly fixed the uniform but Capt. Presnell took his precious time to help us and teach us how to do it,” she said.
Hodge was warned by her parents the program would be hard because more males than females took advantage of the program. “As a female, I want to encourage other females to go for it if they really want to. Don’t let people discourage you.”
David Crowder plans to enlist in the U.S. Navy in nine months. “I am learning everything that I need to know. It’s not only going to help me but it’s going to help everyone in this community.”
Neveah Scalf values the group aspect of the program. “I have always wanted to join the military and do something with my life. When I found out about this program I have felt more inspired to do it.”
Lawrence Musa is looking ahead to a career in the U.S. Navy, even while recognizing he is making history. “I really am happy especially knowing that we are the first group of cadets.”
The cadets will be presenting the colors at the Elizabethton and Rhea County football game Friday night and other home playoff games.