The military is full of traditions, pageantry, and ceremony, to include the military ball. These traditions start as early as the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in high school.
On Feb. 26 the Grissom High JROTC program held their military ball, an event that had been postponed the year before due to COVID restrictions. Most of the cadets donned their dress military uniforms, complete with bow ties, and brought a guest to help celebrate their time in the award-winning program.
Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Rice, command sergeant major at the Security Assistance Command, gave the keynote address at the ball, encouraging students to serve no matter the career path they choose.
“The lessons you have learned through your Junior ROTC involvement will prepare you for real life,” Rice said. “These are building blocks that will take you into the rest of your life.”
First year cadet Rebecca Bernico is not certain she will choose to join the military, but she does understand what JROTC can provide for her future choices. “I joined the program to build confidence and leadership skills. These are good for any career path, not just for going into the Army,” she said.
Rice has represented USASAC at numerous events and is adept at connecting with any audience. However, he also participated in JROTC in high school and shared some of his experience as a young cadet with the 160 students.
“I remember my pants not fitting, the shoes being too small, the way other students looked at me at the bus stop,” he said. Rice used his JROTC experience to propel him into a military career that has spanned 33 years.
“You have an advantage over many of your fellow students in that you are learning important life skills through your JROTC program. Yes, even pull-ups, hiking through mud and dirt, and walking in cadence can be turned into life skills,” Rice said. “You are learning that at times you will have to walk to a rhythm that is not your own, but someone else’s.”
Grissom’s JROTC program has been designated an Honor Unit of Distinction with a nationally accredited curriculum. To be awarded a HUD, a school program has demonstrated exceptional performance in all areas of the program operation. The JROTC program must score from 90-100% on the annual unit report, and 95-100% on the JROTC Program of Accreditation.
The students planned the evening from selecting the venue to the menu, but also worked to include several military traditions in the agenda. The seniors were recognized and walked through a saber ceremony. There was a traditional receiving line, which observed safe COVID prevention guidelines. Of course, the colors were presented and retired at the ball, along with an invocation and one cadet sang the national anthem.
“I have met so many veterans who started their military career in JROTC in high school, have served for several years as an active-duty member, and then gone onto careers in different fields,” Rice said. “Your service will not end when you take off the uniform. You will continue to serve your families, your communities, and your nation by making the right choices, participating in patriotic observances, and carrying out your civic duties.”
Instructors for Grissom’s JROTC program include retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cedric Moore, and retired Col. Jose Valentin, who retired from USASAC after his more than 30-year career.