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Celebrating thousands of steps and one goal, together:

JROTC programs from around the county and the nation participated in a 5K fun run event to celebrate the 100th year of JROTC, but for one member of Lely’s cadets the words “fun” and “run” would not accurately describe the challenge of completing the race.

Eddie Garcia, a well-known LET 3 in the program, suffers from a chronic disability that limits his walking performance. Such a disability would make completing the race a difficult task, but strong-minded and filled with courage, he accepted the challenge.

Although all JROTC programs had one common goal, which was to have as many cadets as possible participate nationwide, the Lely Trojan Battalion had a different purpose. The battalion emphasized the importance of participating in something bigger than themselves, but also more to do with no one being left behind.

When cadets heard about Garcia’s decision to participate, they were extremely encouraging and excited for him.
“I believe this sends a message to everyone that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what disability you may have; JROTC is about being a team,” Marrisa Mengelkoch commented excitedly. “It’s a family – a place to belong.”

Excitement such as this encouraged Garcia to keep going even though the run not only challenged him physically, but emotionally as well.

He had never done anything quite like this; consequently leaving him with feelings of excitement and anxiousness. Anxious because the concern of the wear on his body consumed his thoughts, yet excited because this was an event the entire battalion could do.

“All of this is a lot of pressure, but it is a shared pressure because everyone has the same goal which is to finish together,” Garcia stated before the run. “Without teamwork and unity, you can’t achieve all that is possible.”
Eddie strongly believes that a huge factor that allowed him to finish the race was the support and motivation that he received from his team, the Lely Trojan Battalion. Seeing encouraging faces and hearing supportive chants allowed him to keep a positive and strong attitude even at the hardest times during the run.

During the run, his legs ached, fatigue was high, and the sun was blazing, but crossing the finish line made it all worthwhile for him.

It was an inspiring sight to see all 143 cadets and instructors finish the race and go back for Garcia to follow him to the finish line, truly demonstrating the meaning of no one being left behind.

“Today I have been broken mentally, but I have been rebuilt spiritually,” Eddie said shortly after completing the race.

He was truly at a loss for words and could only express his complete gratitude for instructors Chief Michael Harp and Master Sergeant Laly Santiago, as well as the entire Trojan Battalion.

“Determination, patience, and courage are the only things needed to improve any situation, and Eddie has all three,” stated Chief Harp.

Chief Harp also flaunted next year’s JROTC t-shirt that reads: “The only disability in life is having a bad attitude! Stop making excuses!”

The day was eventful, inspiring, and even uplifting as instructors Chief Warrant Officer Michael Harp and Master Sergeant Laly Santiago led by example.

After celebrating, everyone came together to present medals to the top three girls and top three boys that finished. These students were all recognized at the end, but Eddie Garcia was awarded the title of The Most Inspirational and Motivated Cadet.

To see more stories on our cadets make sure to visit our Cadet News Archive!

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