WAREHAM, MA -- The numbers are stunningly impressive. Wareham High senior Keegan P. Cahill is one of 53 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets out of 553,000 cadets from around the world to be awarded the Legion of Valor with Bronze Cross for Achievement. JROTC Cadet Lt. Col. Cahill’s award “demonstrates countless hours of service to his community, excellence in academics, and demonstrated exceptional leadership which define his character,” according to the award’s description. It is also limited by the U.S. Army to no more than one award per 4,000 ROTC cadets.
Other criteria include demonstrating outstanding performance, dependability and good character, adherence to military discipline, and leadership ability. As impressive as those numbers and criteria are, likewise as impressive are the judges who decide on the select few who merit the award. The Legion of Valor organization is composed of veterans who have distinguished themselves by earning either the Medal of Honor or their respective service’s highest award for gallantry — the Navy Cross, Army Distinguished Service Cross or Air Force Cross.
Cahill’s honor was recognized in a brief ceremony outside the high school Tuesday attended by school officials, including Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood and WHS Principal Scott Palladino; family members, including his mom Erin Cahill; and JROTC instructor Lt. Col. (Retired) Matthew Stanton. Stanton said, “We are here to recognize Keegan’s amazing efforts over the past 3 ½ years, particularly with Junior ROTC.”
He added, “We’ve never had anyone earn the achievement of Legion of Valor” during his tenure at the school.
Palladino said that, in fact, this is the first time a Wareham High student has won the distinction in JROTC’s 18-year history at the school.
“There are over 3,390 Junior ROTC programs, not just in the United States but in military bases around the world, with over 553,000 cadets,” Stanton said. “There were 53 cadets chosen out of all those programs for this Legion of Valor.”
Stanton said Cahill began with JROTC as a “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed” freshman.
“He impressed us from the get-go because he is very focused and he had some very set goals in mind. There was nothing that was going to stop him from achieving those goals. We could tell that from jump street. We’ve been so impressed ever since.”
Cahill quickly ascended up the ladder within the ranks, Stanton said. As a sophomore he became the battalion command sergeant major. He proved himself in that post and was chosen as commander both last year and this year. “And he’s led the unit magnificently.”
“We really appreciate all of your efforts and this is so well-deserved an award – and we are so excited about the future for you. We know you’re going to make such a huge impression no matter what you decide to do,” Stanton said. Cahill said in a soft, modest tone that JROTC has been “hugely influential in my life. It’s really been my guiding class in high school.” And it has made him both a better citizen and leader, he said.
“It’s given me a chance to really hone in on what I’m good at and what I enjoy to do and it turns out it’s leadership.” He added he couldn’t have achieved this distinction without the ROTC leadership and “of course, my entire family.”
“Overall, it’s been a great four years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d do it all over again. Thank you very much everybody. I really appreciate it.”