Cadet 1st Lieutenant Tyler Craig, MHS Senior, quoted “Starship Troopers,” when he said, “The word ‘duty’ is an adult virtue. A juvenile only truly becomes an adult whenever they place the value of duty before their own life.” While the Mattoon High School Corps of Cadets are not in any situations where they would have to make this choice, they do have plenty of their own duties, whether they are in the corps, at school, at work, or at home. Many of these Cadets take these duties seriously. To prove this, one needs to look no further than the Cadets’ actions, including those actions they took at recent home football games.
On September 20, September 27, and October 11, the Mattoon High School hosted three home football games--two of those being the MHS Homecoming game and the Coles County Clash. While the players were on the field and the fans (including Team Massive) cheered in the stands, there is a dedicated army of students representing JROTC and protecting the school grounds
The JROTC do much at these games, some of which goes unnoticed by the crowd. There were MPs, Military Patrols, guarding the gates. Behind the scenes, Cadets were in the JROTC room, organizing, scheduling, and supplying the MPs. What’s more, there was the Push-up Detail, celebrating the Greenwave’s every touchdown with the strenuous exercise. The Color Guard was also there, honoring this country by presenting the colors at the start of the games. At one of the games, three Cadets (along with two other students) were publicly sworn into the U.S. Army.
Read on to take an inside look at the Mattoon JROTC’s role in these games:
“MP” stands for “Military Patrol.” While the Corps of Cadets are not actually members of the U.S. military, the JROTC still has its own version of this important position.
The JROTC MPs guard the gates and entrances to the school, not letting in those who did not pay at the main entrance, watching out for suspicious behavior, and staying at their posts until properly dismissed. MPs patrol in groups of two, wearing either uniform or a neon vest and tag (with their duties printed on it) to their posts. There, these MPs remain for thirty minutes until replacements relieve them. Following a break from duties in which they can spend time with friends, get snacks, and watch the game, they return to duty.
For those that do not patrol the grounds, a number of Cadets perform support duties in the JROTC room. These Cadets hand out vests to the MPs, create an assignment schedule, and basically perform any behind-the-scenes tasks that are required to help ensure these events go off without a hitch.
Every time Mattoon scored a touchdown, the Push-Up Detail carried one of its members out onto the field on a stretcher. That member would then do as many push-ups as the Greenwave had points. For instance, if Mattoon had six points, the person on the stretcher would do six push-ups. Say the team had fifty-seven points, well those Cadets would be hurting the next day. Then, the rest of the Push-up Detail would carry the person back, and all of them would then run out on the field and do push-ups. This may not sound too enjoyable for those who do not love doing push-ups, but many of the people on the Detail would disagree.
Cadet PFC Alexander Flenner, a Sophomore at MHS described it as, “a really fun experience,” and said his favorite part was, “just being with my friends, just out there, just hangin’ out.”
These Cadets got to spend time with one another and show both their JROTC Esprit de Corp and their school spirit. Flenner encourages other Cadets to “try and go, if they can and try out for the team” next season.
The Mattoon JROTC Color Guard performed not only at each of the three home football games, but at other events too. The JROTC Color Guard makes annual visits to one or two area nursing homes, along with the rest of the corps. They also occasionally perform at the Mattoon Middle School, and appear at various pep rallies. These Cadets wore their Class A uniforms and marched onto the field carrying their demilitarized Springfield rifles, the Illinois flag, and the American flag. The crowd stood, hand over heart, while the Color Guard presented the colors as the national anthem played. Duty performed, they marched solemnly off the field, to thunderous applause.
Five students (three of which were Cadets) were sworn into the U.S. Army during one of the home games. Those three members of the corps were Cadet Sergeant Major Colin Ralph, Cadet 1st Lieutenant Tyler Craig, and Cadet 1st Lieutenant Korbyn Foss.
Ralph was always interested in the army, partially because his stepdad is a veteran, but JROTC really made him think, “this is something I want to do with my life.” Ralph has wanted to enlist for the past seven years and is “optimistic about going into the Army.” Cadet Ralphs believes that one should “keep on going” and “never give up.”
Craig too has always been intrigued by the Army. Several members of his family were in the military, as well. He is excited about the new friendships and experiences ahead and believes that “perseverance” is the most important quality for anyone enlisting. Craig described being sworn in as “a big punch of pride in the chest.”
Foss always found the military fascinating and has always wanted to join. He is both “excited” and “worried” about the Army being his life “for the next however many years,” but he feels prepared from his time in the corps and is ready to serve.
All had previously been officially sworn in at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in St. Louis, but this public proclamation at the football game made it more official for them somehow. They were able to walk out on the field at halftime and publicly proclaim to their community that they would defend the U.S.A. as members of the U.S. Army.
These seniors will be called to duty in 2020, leaving behind childhood, safety, and comfort in order to proudly serve their nation with 100% dedication.
Cadet 1st Lieutenant Craig said it best when he said, “life does not want your 95%. Life doesn’t even want your 99.9%. Life wants your 100%. You don’t get 100% out of life if you don’t put 100% in life--you’re not even livin’ life.”