NSSAR JROTC Honor Legion Winner's Essay for 2002



How has JROTC prepared me to be a better citizen of the United States Of America?

"If the fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fat, and other extraneous matter be immersed in a diluted solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputrescible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this sir, is leather."

It was my first day in JROTC and I was the fresh skin.   My goal was to become leather; strong, resilient, highly prized as a quality material, a rare cut above the average.  The corps would "clean and divest" me in its own special way; it would break away the hindrances of self-doubt and apprehension.   It was through the corps that I would become a better citizen of the United States of America.  I would become educated in self-improvement, leadership, and ethical behavior.

My self-improvement began with decision-making.   Because I had to make decisions, I learned how to make them well.  Through JROTC, I have had to make choices that affect not only my life, but also the lives of others.  Immediate decisions are a daily occurrence and call on my wisdom, but poor or rash decisions are hard to overcome.  Therefore, if I have ten seconds to make a decision, I will think for nine.

Concentrated practice in how to present myself in public has also improved me.  I have learned to take command of myself, which is something that many of my peers have not been exposed to, nor will they be.   Given the opportunity to speak in front of people has instilled me with confidence, and quick, clear thinking.  I am prepared to exercise these skills with ease as a contributing citizen.

JROTC has also taught me valuable lessons in leadership.   I discovered that being in a leadership position, other's expectations of me are higher.  Consequently, I expect more of myself.  I find that to be a good leader I have to first be a good follower.  As a fledgling LET 1*, I learned the art of following well.  Answers are not uttered with the simplicity of "yeah" or "ok", but "yes sir" and "no sir".  The very credo of JROTC demands respect at all times, and being able to give that respect means to be a good follower.  After becoming a good follower, conversion to a LET 2 meant that I was given the responsibility of leading others.   In this new position, I realized that patience is a requirement when dealing with others.  It was now my responsibility to show others how to become leaders.   This will make me a better citizen of the United States because I will have the skills to become a leader in my community.

My continuing preparation for good citizenship involves the ethical code of conduct: honor.  This is something that is not taught in any other class in high school.  I expect myself, and others, to be honest, to be cadets with integrity, and to exemplify ethical behavior.   I know that everything I do in and out of JROTC is a reflection on the corps.   As a U.S. citizen, I know too that my actions will reflect on our nation.   I am prepared to meet the high goals that will keep our country moving forward.

My immersion in this "tannic acid" has taught me that all I have learned and will learn in these four years will become the foundation of my adult life and ultimately make me a better citizen.  While teachers and other students return respect to me, they may or may not realize that the principles I live by are the principles of JROTC, and that it has prepared me to become a better citizen of the United States of America.  As a LET 3, JROTC has demanded of me what I thought I could not give.

I have become leather

*LET - Leadership levels in the JROTC curriculum.  LET 1 is first year, LET 2 is second year, etc.

Cadet Major Jonathan Coward
Crescent City Sr. High School
Crescent City, FL