Spring Hill HS JROTC Dedicates Obstacle Course to SAI LTC (R) “Tony” Cornelius, Four Years After His Passing

Story by: LTC (R) Lance Jackson
Photos by: Emily Jackson and Bethany Brown

On 29 June 2023, four years to the day of his passing, the obstacle course that LTC (Ret) “Tony” Cornelius first planned out with a few select parents and cadets in 2016.  The formal dedication ceremony was attended by many former cadets, and current cadets of the JROTC program, as well as local civic organizations, and parent volunteers that all helped build the course. 

From January 2009 to June 2019 LTC Cornelius was the SAI at Spring Hill High School.  In 2011 he had a vision for an obstacle course.  At the time it was to be the only obstacle course that allowed side by side competition.  He broke ground on the course in 2017 with parent volunteers and cadets putting in hours of hard work on weekends. This was only made possible after years of fundraising events, donations from local businesses, civic organizations, he was able to break ground on the massive 17 obstacle course without any funds from school or government resources.  As the course was being constructed, parents and cadets started calling it “The Juggernaut”, due to the size of some of the obstacles being constructed.   Shortly before breaking ground LTC Cornelius was diagnosed with throat cancer.  However, he was not deterred, he underwent treatments and building the course simultaneously.  In his last weeks and days, he would be too weak to get out of his truck to help build.  His wife, Virginia, would drive him to the course and he would sit and watch and give instructions.  Parent volunteers would come to him in his truck, get instructions on what needed to be done, as he watched and provided guidance. Sadly, he passed away in 2019 before the course was completed.

For years, the program and obstacle course lacked effective leadership, motivation, and vision, as the obstacle course had little progress or attention.    However, on 29 June 2023, with the program finally having a leader with passion and a vision for the course and the program, on the 4 year anniversary of LTC Cornelius passing, the course was officially completed and dedicated in his honor.

Cadets both past and present, the many parents, the school staff and faculty are all honered to have known, worked with, and learn from him.  For many years to come the obstacle course will serve as another tool to improve leadership skills, and  “To Motivate Young People to Be Better Citizens”.

The JROTC program will have the 1st Annual LTC Cornelius Raider Challenge October 28, 2023.