By Brian Livingston
Lined up in tight formations, cadets with the Navy Junior ROTC program at Northeast Lauderdale High School conducted their Annual Military Inspection Tuesday.
Watching the ceremony were family and friend of the cadets, school and Lauderdale County School District officials, state representatives of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Navy and Marine Corps personnel from NAS Meridian.
The ceremony marked the culmination school's Navy JROTC curriculum. A final inspection of the JROTC company was conducted and the cadets were graded in areas such as drill formation.
"This is just a small part of what these students do all year," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Josef, who is the senior Naval Science instructor for the program at the school. "I'm very proud of these kids and they keep me young."
According to John Lewis, who is the JROTC bureau director with the Mississippi Department of Education, there are more than 11,000 students who participate in the state's 88 ROTC programs.
"They learn leadership skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives," Lewis said as he watched the inspection of the three platoons. "This program is not a recruiting tool for the military but rather an educational tool."
Benny Duett, the state commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, was among those at the event.
"It is so great to see this number of young people in this program," Duett said. "So many times young people are crime statistics. I don't think you will see any of these young men and women in the newspaper because of something bad."
Four members of the company were recognized for their outstanding performance this year and were being promoted to chief petty officer. Those four cadets were Fernando Castro, Marren Eades, Kiara Hawkins and Adrianna Jimison.
Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges said the district appreciates the work the JROTC students went through.
"These students have accomplished a great deal," Hodges said.