My Country ‘Tis of Thee

Lauren Jackson, Student Life Editor

Compared to other political institutions around the world, the United States is a very young nation. But we are a country that stands proud in its patriotism and honors its colors. Many a song has been penned in reverence of this land of the free and home of the brave; no doubt, by people who felt an innate connection to it. Patriotism buds at a young age, and is brought to full bloom by those who nurture it—the older friends, parents, and other mentors who encourage national pride in today’s youth.

 

Several seniors here in North Point’s JAFROTC program probably had these influential figures in their lives. The experiences of three of North Point’s most exemplary JAFROTC seniors are chronicled here.

 

Devin Butler (’10)

Athletic, studious, and holder of a 3.9 GPA, Devin Butler has done much to remain a well-rounded student. His journey with ROTC began in his ninth grade year. For him, something that started out as a simple choice of an elective for freshman year turned out to change his life.

 

“Over the last four years I’ve watched the program grow and I’ve grown in new leadership positions each and every year.” The change in responsibility each year pushed him to become a better person and better citizen, Butler said.

 

The process toward the increased maturity and responsibility that ROTC offered was not an easy one, however. Butler says adjusting to the class in his freshman year was probably the hardest for him.

 

[Freshman year] was the year I learned how to do everything, such as drill and ceremonies, and basically show up to class on time, ‘cause it was also my first year in high school, said Butler.

 

Freshman year had its highlights as well. Butler will never forget how it felt to perform in front of a crowd, the sound of the audience and the echo of the drill rifles ringing in his ears.

 

[My] best memory was probably my freshman year when we had in-house drill ceremony.” Butler was proud that he was given the chance to “[be] on the floor as a freshman, drilling, in front of a large crowd.”

 

As for a source of inspiration, Butler didn’t have to look too far from home. His father served 27 years in the U.S. Army and was also a part of the Air Defense Artillery. If ever he had doubts about the ROTC program and needed someone to encourage him to continue to work hard, his father would be the man for the job. Look where that encouragement has gotten him four years later!

 

“[My father is] the reason I stayed in it [ROTC].” Even so, Butler is quick to reiterate that, “You have to be willing to do [the class] yourself, ‘cause if you’re not willing to do it yourself, it’s going to be a bad experience.” Being a part of the ROTC program takes self-motivation and a willingness to become disciplined. Once that discipline is achieved, a student can then come to appreciate the role of the military in our country. The month of May (Military Appreciation Month) is an ideal time to come to terms with the men and women who serve our country.

 

“[Military Appreciation Month] actually means a lot to me. It gives people a chance to give back to my father and other soldiers who have defended the nation throughout the years,” Butler asserted. On Memorial Day, he typically celebrates the duties of veteran and deceased servicemen with his family—usually at a cookout. “Some years we go down to D.C., to the memorials and everything, and we see soldiers.” For Butler, Memorial Day will always be a refreshing, thought-provoking holiday. “It allows people to reminisce on the past.”

 

For the future, Butler is contemplating pursuing a military-related career after high school, but at the moment, plans to attend East Carolina University as a track athlete. But he has kept his options open—ECU offers both an Air Force and an Army ROTC collegiate program.

 

 

Lawrence Bradley (’10)

              For Lawrence Bradley, current 1st Sergeant of North Point’s ROTC program, the idea of joining the military in some way, shape, or form, came as a kid.

 

“I decided to join ROTC back when I was in the 6th grade. My uncles, they went to St. John’s then, and I liked how they were in the uniform, how when they walked around the school, people would respect them,” said Bradley. St. John’s, a prestigious, military-focused, preparatory school in NW Washington, D.C., is known for its commitment to academic and spiritual excellence. “It was a great feeling just to see that—when I would walk around the school with [them], people would respect [them].Seeing this admiration that military officers received as a preteen, Bradley took note of it, and it eventually came to shape his academic choices once he reached high school.

Besides that, Bradley joined the ROTC program as an extracurricular venture. “I also wanted to be a part of a group, because I didn’t do sports and stuff like that. It was more of a club-type thing—I wanted to see what that was like, and I also do like the military.”

 

Bradley has actually only been at North Point for three years. He spent his freshman year at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, MD, where he learned the basics of military regulations and drill techniques in the ROTC program there.

 

I remember all of [the students and teachers] like it was yesterday, teaching me left-face, about-face.”  Coming to North Point was a whole new experience. When I came here to North Point, they were at a different pace because it’s a newer school, Bradley said. You had to pick up and go from wherever you were, and…that’s just how it was.” But now after three years, the ROTC program has greatly improved here at North Point. Bradley now has several experiences to recount as impacting moments in his high school career.

 

The most memorable experiences were when I was on the drill team last year and this year. They say when you’re in ROTC, in class, it’s one thing, but the drill team is another,” Bradley explains.They call it a team, but if you ask anybody on the drill team we’ll tell you that we’re all a family. So it’s like, if one person has a slice of pizza and two people are hungry, we’re splitting it—that’s how it works,” he says with a matter-of-fact chuckle. “It’s almost like a second family.” Bradley pauses. It is a second family.”

 

With the support of this second family, Bradley will graduate next week and go on to college. He mentioned that he hopes to do military police work and law enforcement while in school. “I intend on going to CSM first for a year, and then I’ll transfer to either the University of Maryland, or I might transfer to Morgan State University and do Army ROTC, and go in the army as a full commissioned officer.”

 

Bradley very much looks forward to eventually joining the military himself and traveling around the world to serve. “I can’t serve my country here; while I’m here, the only thing I can do is pay taxes, and I don’t even like doing that,” he admits. “So I look forward to actually going overseas and doing something positive for my country.”

 

 

 

Zach Steele (’10)

              For Zach Steele, signing up for ROTC was a no-brainer. “I joined ROTC mainly because I was an air force brat—born in Germany, moved to Bowling Air Force Base, lived there for five years, dad did 20 [years] in the air force. So I was pretty sure I was going to make that my career.” And what a lucky choice of career that was, because military turned out to be his niche.

 

Steele has made remarkable strides in the ROTC program, achieving many honors and statuses along the way. “I’ve done everything you could possibly do in ROTC,” said Steele. “[I was] Top Cadet at the school, Top Cadet in the county, tri-county, 1st member from Charles County to be in the Command Staff—that’s the good.” And as for the bad…? The bad…let’s see, the instructors hate me,” he says wryly.

 

Steele’s experiences in ROTC could be stated like a simple formula: “I entered the program, I joined, started to do stuff, I loved it.” His fascination with the program was as simple as that. In his free time, Steele began researching official military regulations and the ROTC program itself. He eventually learned the regulations very well. [I know them] even to a point where I can usually outsmart an instructor when it comes to regulations. You can ask anybody.”

 

Another thing that Steele has greatly benefitted from are ROTC’s extracurricular opportunities. “We offer tons of them, so if you don’t have anything to do after school, you can, but you really don’t have to, and you can still get sort of far in the program.” Steele has been very involved with the ROTC drill team throughout his high school career.

 

Now that he is about to graduate, Steele is more eager than ever to really work with the military. “I’ve enlisted in the United States Air Force as a 3P0X1 Security Forces Officer.” For those who don’t speak military code, that translates to “I’m going to be a military policeman. I’ll be guarding bases, blowing stuff up, all that good stuff. That’s Reserves, so I only get to work part time. While I’m not doing that, I’m probably going to University of Maryland College Park or CSM, depending on how much money I get through the military.”

 

Steele says he would definitely recommend the program to any incoming freshman. “It’s a great program. It can get you tons of stuff when it comes to scholarships and everything, lots of leadership opportunities. It’s changed me as a person. It got me disciplined, it got me confident. I’ve made tons of great friends [at] all the camps we’ve had. I have friends from P.G. County, Delaware, all over the place—so, great program! he concludes.

 

Before Devin Butler, Lawrence Bradley, and Zach Steele graduate next week, four ROTC students will march into the gym with rifles and our state and national flags. They will hold the flags out, and someone will sing the national anthem. And these three young men will watch, remembering when they marched, when they stood at attention, and when they chose to forever serve their country…and North Point will be remembered as the place where that passion began.