The best reason for JROTC, in my view, is that high school cadets can wear a military uniform and participate in different activities no matter their physical issues.
I have worked with JROTC units for many years and have had the opportunity to work with many, many cadets. Of those cadets I have seen some with physical issues that would prevent them from joining the military, but they have the opportunity to at least see what it is like to be in a pseudo-military environment. I so appreciate that.
In 2012, I read a story online about a young lady, Ariel Summerlin, who has a physical issue and was intrigued. She does not have a left leg; and yet, she marches with her school’s JROTC program. You read that correctly, she marches with her team. She was a freshman then.
Back then, she was on her unit’s inspection team and did very well. Then she added unarmed regulation drill to her competitive repertoire. She even does extremely well in drill downs (knock out).
Fast forward three years and she is still marching with her team as a high school junior. As I attended Nationals in Daytona Beach, I saw her marching with her team and, when the opportunity was right, I ran over and told her how inspirational she is. I’m sure she has heard that hundreds of times before and that the word “inspirational” might even seem trite, but it’s true. I wanted to get a “selfie” with her, but her team was loading onto the bus on Saturday evening and I thought she was leaving.
Sunday arrived and so did she! As she was at a booth near mine and walked over and introduced myself again and asked if I could get a picture with her. She was a little embarrassed and laughed when I commented on her height limitation compared to mine.
Ariel, you’re awesome.