By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)April 11, 2016
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 9, 2016) -- Crowds cheered on the thousands of Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) Cadets during the Army JROTC National Drill and Ceremony competition at the Kentucky International Convention Center April 9, but Cadet Angel Martinez, from Hubbard High School in Chicago, was performing for an audience of one -- his mother who recently passed away.
Martinez's mother, who had been in a coma for the last 13 years, died the week before he was supposed to go compete at the national competition. It was a tough situation, said Retired Army Lt. Col. John Wargo, Senior Army Instructor for the Gurdon S. Hubbard High School JROTC program.
"After I heard about his mother, I had a meeting with all of the team captains and we discussed whether he should still go to nationals or not," he explained. "We decided to leave it up to him, so I had him come sit down and talk with me, and then take a night to think about it.
"He came back the next day and told me he wanted to go because it would be the only way his mother would be able to see him compete. He didn't want to let his team down, but he especially didn't want to let his mother down," added Wargo.
Martinez, who has been on the drill and ceremony team for three years now, said he felt he had to go to the national competition because it was his way of showing his mother how all his hard work had paid off.
"One of the reasons I came here was she's never seen me compete because she's always been in a coma, so I feel like now she can see me from somewhere else -- that's why I decided to come to the competition," said Martinez.
He said his teammates have been in his corner throughout the hard times, and that bond isn't something he takes for granted.
"You have to remember you're not alone - other people have gone through whatever it is you're going through. There's going to be people there to help you make it through it," said Martinez. "They've supported me a lot, so I have to pay them back and support them too -- I can't just let them down."
Col. Thomas Bell, Director of Cadet Command's JROTC program, said perseverance like Martinez has shown demonstrates the core values of JROTC Cadets.
"To have that level of respect for your team mates, by not wanting to let them down, it just goes to show what we're trying to build here in JROTC," he said.
Martinez shared one last piece of advice for others who will go through trials and tribulations before his final competition.
"Keep your head up high -- good things do happen in time, you've just got to wait for them," he said.
His team went on to win second place in the Armed Exhibition category - his mom would be proud.