I am writing this letter in response to the information printed in the Times News from Thursday, April 18th regarding the future of the Junior ROTC program. I feel with the misinformation and the assumptions being made about the program, I too must step forward not only to defend it, but to inform all of you how beneficial the program has been.
Not only am I a 1995 graduate of Panther Valley, but I am also a former four-year member and Cadet Corps Commander of the JROTC program. My interest in joining came when the cadets and Senior Army Instructor, Col. Bachman, visited Panther Valley Middle School my eighth grade year as part of an
informational program to transition us to the high school setting. I did not join because I felt a desire to join the military after high school, but because I felt the desire to be a part of a program that would teach skills such as discipline, respect, love of country, and leadership. In my four years in the JROTC program, not once did it fall short of my expectations.
I was outright appalled at Ms. Genther's assumption that JROTC is merely to "train soldiers"!!! The motto of the JROTC program during my years was to "promote young people to be better Americans." Each year of the program is split into sections known as L.E.T; Leadership Education Training.
Yes, JROTC classes do teach military history, basic military procedure, marksmanship, drill and ceremony, and the structure of a battalion. However, I also learned about first aid, American history, physical fitness, map reading, and public speaking. More importantly, I learned skills that stayed with me beyond my high school years and beyond the walls of any classroom. I learned discipline every time I spoke to a superior or an adult. I learned responsibility every week that I needed to polish my brass, shine my shoes, and made sure that my uniform was in top shape for our weekly inspection. I learned how to be a leader and how to work effectively in a committee every year for our annual inspection, when practicing for drill competition, and how to delegate authority to cadets below me. I learned respect and pride for my country and community from every parade I marched in, every time a next of kin thanked me for serving as an honor guard at a military funeral, on Memorial Day when I read "In Flanders's Field", every flag retirement ceremony I attended in Tower City, and when our JROTC program became the only Honor Unit with Distinction in the entire state of Pennsylvania in 1994. JROTC is NOT a "soldier training program"; it is a program that teaches skills that last an entire lifetime. It teaches real-world skills that I have used more than any calculus algorithm, advanced physics circuit, or geometry proof.
I look back at my four years at Panther Valley High School with pride because I did have many accomplishments and was part of many different activities. However, it is the JROTC program where I feel my strongest tie and sense of accomplishment. During my four years, I was a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, the adjutant, and the Cadet Corps Commander. I earned many accolades such as the Superior Cadet medal in all four LET classes, the Daughters of the American Revolution Medal, the Sons of the American Revolution Medal, and the Liberty Bell Award. To this day, my father still has them displayed on a trophy shelf and proudly refers to them. He expresses to many people in the community how proud he was of my accomplishments and how wonderful the JROTC program is at Panther Valley. In my years since graduating from Panther Valley in 1995, I have spoken about the program with pride, how I feel ALL HIGH SCHOOLS should offer it, and how much it has benefitted my life. As a teacher in North Carolina for the first five years of my career, I praised Anson County for its Air Force JROTC program and have often told parents of my third grade students that JROTC programs are a worth-while for teaching many skills that students need to be successful adults. I have many times over mentioned the influence both Col. Bachman and Col. Boston have had on me, how they fostered my leadership potential, and how I can never repay either of them for all they have done for me. However, I am not the only success story.
JROTC has helped previous Panther Valley graduates attain college scholarships, molded careers in the military, and helped students that are often outcasts attain self-confidence and respect. Two years ago, I returned to Panther Valley High School to attend the JROTC awards ceremony. It was bittersweet for me because it was also to say good-bye to Col. Boston. He became the Senior Army Instructor my senior year and I wanted to be there for his final awards night. I wanted to show my support for him and my undying support for the program itself. I was also very upset to see only two members of the Panther Valley School Board were in attendance that night. If ALL of you were in attendance to see what the program is about, the students it has benefitted, and the success it had become under Col. Boston, this letter and the defending of the program may not be necessary.
In conclusion, I cannot stress enough the benefit JROTC has had in every aspect of my life, the pride I feel for being a part of the program, and how vehemently I will always defend it as a necessary part of the Panther Valley High School curriculum. To discontinue it would be a disservice to the future students that could benefit from it and a sign of disrespect to those former cadets and community veterans who support it.
Ms. Kelly M.(Paul) Fritz
1995 PVHS Graduate
Former JROTC CC Commander