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Charleston MOAA Chapter
Lake Marion Army JROTC

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Lake Marion “Gator Battalion” Army JROTC Awards Ceremony
14 May, 1800
I want to first give you a fact that will knock your socks off.  Lake Marion High School and Technology Center in Santee has a student body of approximately 900.  The JROTC Battalion has a cadet corps of about 300.  That’s an amazing 1/3 of the student body!  And, WOW, are they well taught and spirited!
At exactly 1800 Cadet 2LT Ashley Stokes welcomed the audience to the Gator Battalion’s Awards Ceremony.  The Battalion Commander, Cadet LTC Clifford Benjamin called the battalion to attention and the fully uniformed and lookin’ sharp cadre rose as one with a sharp snap.  The Presentation of the Colors was done crisply and in a fine military fashion that would rival any active duty color guard.  The National Anthem was sung by two cadets, CDTs MSG Deoszhane Myers & DeAhjane Snell and the battalion then recited the Cadet Creed.  Invocation was given by Cadet 1LT Antawn White followed by the reading of the AJROTC Purpose by Cadet CPT Alentè Snell.
Setting the tone for the evening, the battalion commander then lead the cadre of cadets in the “Gator Battalion Motto”.  This was a full two-minute responsive chant that was high energy, loud and had the corps and the audience raised to high spirits!
At this point the awards ceremony began. This year our chapter’s awards were the first to be given (I think it was because we were one of only two organizations that had a rep in attendance.  The other organization was the Army Recruiting Command represented by SSG Allen Simmons) and I was called to the stage.  Following the rousing Gator Battalion Motto I was impelled to let the entire corps know that it was one of the most moving things I’d heard in a long time and they needed to get a video of it on YouTube!
As the cadets did not know that they were receiving awards I had the opportunity to read the award statement before announcing their name.  Cadet Sergeant First Class Devontrè Goodwin receiving the MOAA Medal and Certificate marched to the stage, gave me a salute that set the standard for the evening and we had our photo taken together.  That was repeated for the Outstanding Cadet Award of a Certificate and a $50 check.  Cadet Corporal Jordan Ross rendered another sharp salute and accepted that award.
Major Kenneth Dodd and his staff of two Sergeant Majors, Howard Brown and Timothy Mickens have given the cadets guided-freedom to organize, arrange and run the ceremony and it was easy to see that the cadets had worked hard on it.  It was encouraging to see that each awardee was given the courtesy to gain individual recognition for their accomplishments.  Each cadet was called individually, walked onto the stage was presented with the award and had their photo taken.  It takes a bit more time to do it this was but it is a wonderful gesture.
The next part of the evening was the senor recognition and promotion ceremony for next year.  Before that started, Major General Turner, USA (Ret) spoke briefly to the battalion and audience about setting their sights high and how proud he was to see such a sharp group.  Gen Turner’s speech, like all of the rest of the ceremony, was high-energy!
Each of the seniors graduating this year were individually recognized, their accomplishments and their future plans were also shared.  Amazingly enough of the 26 graduates I counted a full 21 of them had plans to join the armed services:  7-Army, 4-Air Force, 2-Marines and 8-National Guard.  Most of them are going onto higher education with two receiving large scholarships.
The instructors present each of the seniors with gifts; one of them being 6-ft intertwined double cord in the school’s colors that they will wear with their cap and gown at graduation.  After a musical selection sung by Cadet CPLs Kepharris Wright and Ty’Laysia Johnson, the battalion commander and executive officer, Cadet MJR Dayjai Washington reflected on their 4-years in school and the battalion then Major Dodd ended the ceremony with a few remarks.
Well, it wasn’t quite done…much to my glee the battalion was led in a final rendition of the Gator Battalion Motto (I did record it this time!)
All in all this was one of the best ceremonies that I’ve ever been to and the staff has built a fantastic JROTC program of which they can be proud.  One last thing…Ernie, with all due respect, I may ‘forget’ to ask if you want to be the Lake Marion’s presenter – I want to go again! :)
Keith Rodwell
Charleston MOAA Chapter
Charleston MOAA Chapter
Charleston MOAA Chapter
Charleston MOAA Chapter

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