Union's JROTC raising funds to march in inauguration parade
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
1/02/13 at 10:17 PM
Sixty Union High School Air Force JROTC cadets are about to be part of history — if they can raise $40,000 within two weeks.
“We’re lucky ducks. I don’t know how else to explain it,” said 17-year-old senior Sarah Mohamad.
The school’s Air Force Junior ROTC unit was notified over winter break that it had been selected to represent Oklahoma in the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Parade on Jan 21.
But now, the cadets must turn to veterans groups, businesses and others for donations to help pay for their transportation, food and lodging. They would have to raise the money before Jan. 17.
“We’re going there solely on the kindness of other people’s hearts,” Mohamad said.
If the cadets make it to Washington, their JROTC unit will be the only high school unit in the parade.
Some students were getting photographs taken Wednesday for the identification records required by the Secret Service, and they found it difficult to contain their enthusiasm.
“It’s a major deal. It’s never going to happen again for us,” said Mason White, a 16-year-old sophomore.
Alexandra Campbell, a 15-year-old sophomore, said this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“We’re proud of being known all over the country,” she said. “They know we are open to the challenge.”
Union’s JROTC unit also was selected to participate in the 2009 presidential inauguration parade. Brittany Snow was troop commander then.
Now 22, in the Air National Guard and working on her college degree in psychology, she said the experience was priceless.
“Just walking by the White House, I thought of all the presidents who had lived there before,” Snow said. “There is such a history there. It’s a moment I never thought I would experience.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ron McCool, the senior instructor for the JROTC group, said notification of the unit’s selection came at the last minute in 2009, as well.
“We were able to do it last time,” he said, crediting numerous businesses that donated to the effort. “I know these are tough economic times, but with a few generous donors, we can go.”
Union’s JROTC program has a good reputation throughout the country, which McCool believes is the reason it has been invited to participate in the parade twice.
“This is a reward for the hard work the kids have done,” he said.
McCool said the program has been recognized for being among the top 10 percent of JROTC units in the country several times.
“We did something very unusual last year that we put on our application,” he said. “And so far, we’re the only high school organization of any kind to do this. We brought the Vietnam Wall to Tulsa.”
A small unit of 24 Union JROTC cadets called the Threads of Valor Honor Guard kept vigil at the traveling wall’s site in shifts 24 hours a day for an entire week.
The guards walked a sentry route in a ceremonial re-creation of the Walk of the Sentries at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington.
Cadet Maj. Alexander Laboyteaux, an 18-year-old senior, and Jordan Romesburg, a 16-year-old junior and second-in-command of the color guard, said they are excited at the chance to see the real thing.
“It’s the biggest legacy we are leaving,” Romesburg said. “I thought it was the wall, but now we’re leaving another one.”
Make checks payable to:
Union AFJROTC Booster Club
Union Ninth Grade Center
7616 S. Garnett Road
Broken Arrow, OK 74012
Retired Lt. Col. Ron McCool, a JROTC teacher at Union High School, discusses the group's trip to the presidential inauguration parade with Caleb Galloway (center) and Sarah Mohamad on Wednesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World