I feel very fortunate to have recently had the opportunity to be invited to attend the Awards Ceremony for the 2008 NJROTC National Academic, Athletic, and Drill Competition. The ceremony was held this past Saturday evening at the National Museum of Naval Aviation aboard NAS Pensacola. Of the more than 6oo NJROTC units that sought to be included in this event, only 25 were invited to compete. Our district was well represented by Pine Forest High School, as well as Pace High School from Santa Rosa County. Other units participated from around the country, including one school from Hawaii and several from Texas and California. The event was packed with parents and supporters and the room was electric. Distinguished guests were all over the auditorium, including three Admirals- RADM Cecil Haney, RADM Gary Jones, And RADM Arnold Lotring. Many active duty and retired Navy Captains were also present, as well as a contingent of Marine Corps Drill Sargents from Newport, Rhode Island. RADM Haney was designated the special guest speaker, and he gave a rousing speech to the crowd. He encouraged every one of the Cadets to keep up the good work, and he implored these students to always follow through on challenges they face in life. The overall message RADM Haney imparted was to stay the course and finish, in life, the things that you start. The message was powerful and well received by the crowd.
These young men and women were all professional, sharp, and dedicated. I was very impressed by all of them and left the event feeling patriotic and extremely proud of my country, it's armed forces, and especially the young cadets who are participating in NJROTC. I always look forward to positive, upbeat events like this. These events show just how great the next generation of young leaders in our country are. Yes, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience this event. My hat's off to the Pine Forest High School contingent and all the young men and women who participated from around the country. Congratulations!