Talon News - Good Local News

By Debbie Israel



August 11, 2017

The AHS JROTC Cadets, along with Col. Samples on the left and David Williams on the right, took a minute to pose, while visiting the Whitehouse

On July 25, ten Aztec High School JROTC Cadets and four chaperones boarded a bus to Albuquerque, where they caught a flight to Washington DC for a week-long adventure and history lesson. The group included JROTC Commanding Officer Colonel Berris Samples, David Williams, an Army veteran (from our local Mission Continues), Marie Jenson, Amber Currier and Cadets Cora Begay, Elijah Buck, Jeremy Davis, Candice Galvan, Avery Gordanier, Augustus Mattox, Ferra Mendietta, Alexandria Spears, Camryn Cullander, and Austin Williams.

The flight left Albuquerque at 2 PM, and the group, after a long day, arrived in DC at 11:45 PM.

The plane made stops in Phoenix and Chicago, but the Aztec group stayed on the plane for the 8-hour trip. They had no plane changes and had no layovers.

The first part of the trip went off without a hitch, until the group found that the vans they had reserved were not available to them because the car rental company closed at midnight, a few minutes before they could get there. Thank goodness for taxi's because that's how they all got to their hotel that first night.

Their first day in DC started out with learning some survival skills, drown proofing themselves in the hotel pool. After the training, a trip to the Pentagon was on the agenda.

Because they didn't get their rental vans the previous night, they decided to use the Metro system to get around.

Cadet Austin Williams said, "We learned how to lead ourselves and our team." Each day the Cadets were tasked with finding the way to their destination and back to their hotel.

"Cadets figured out how to get places, get around using the Metro, led the way, and sometimes led us astray," David Williams said. He added, "When they did that, we'd have to butt in and tell them we were headed the wrong way,"

The group had a full week, visiting the Tomb of the Unknown, Soldier, and the Arlington National Cemetery where David Williams said they learned that four years ago, in 2013, there were 200,000 headstones in the cemetery. They were also able to take a tour bus and spend a day at Gettysburg, looking at all the battlefield parts, museum and memorials; tour the Whitehouse and the Rayburn House office building, where the House of Representatives meet. From the Rayburn House, they were led through secret tunnels to the Capitol Building.

Camryn Cullander said her favorite part of the trip was the visit to Gettysburg. She also said, "I learned how to be a better leader and more of a team player."

The group went around to all the war memorials, WWII, Vietnam, Korea; and the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial and Washington Memorial. They toured George and Martha Washington's estate at Mt. Vernon, saw the house and the bed where Washington died, saw the slave quarters and rode a boat on the Potomac.

Cadet Austin Williams at the Korean War Memorial

Cadet Austin Williams said his favorite part of the trip was visiting the Korean War Memorial. He had his friends take a picture of him near the memorial's message "Freedom isn't Free." He said his mom and dad and several other relatives have served in the armed forces, and he was honored to be able to visit the memorial. "I'd like to give a shout out to the ROTC program for making the trip possible," he said. Cadet Williams said he plans to attend college when he graduates from high school, and then join the Army, following in his family's footsteps.

The trip took a lot of planning and fund raising. The Cadets sold advertising in the TALON, worked at the Aztec Ruins all summer, asked for personal donations around town, and received some grants from the 5th Brigade. The DC trip ended up costing around $600 per person.

David Williams summed up the week by saying, "It was a great trip, we didn't lose anybody!" He added, "I think the best part of the whole trip was for the kids to be able to strengthen their leadership skills on getting us around a big city, reading maps, talking to people, asking people where to go."


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