Yes, another JROTC unit is in serious trouble. This time it seems to be a burocratic position with a financial excuse, but no one really knows exactly . (Also read: The Hatred of JROTC.)
Cadets who attended JROTC units around the world can provide anecdotal evidence as to how the program and moreover, the instructors, played a key role in learning life lessons. We, in the Military Drill World, know what it’s all about: citizenship, leadership, followership, accountability, teamwork and a myriad of other qualities that cadets learn from just attending classes or stepping up and volunteering for the extra-curricular activities: drill team, color guard, Raiders, rocketry, PT, academics, etc. Just like the music programs under attack, JROTC is irreplaceable.
While Mission High Schools AJROTC unit had a problem with finding instructors, the Saint Louis Crusader Battalion of Honolulu, Hawaii is in danger of closing supposedly due to funds. Two former cadets set up a Facebook page to help organize the fight against the shutdown and are urging everyone to use the hashtag, #SaveSLSBattion.
SaintLouis High AJROTC instructors, First Sergeant Akuna and Chief Warrant Officer Philips, have been taking freshman kids and turning them into young men and women for many years now.
The following is what I have been able to obtain from one of the cadets (C/SFC Dillon Wong):
“The cadets were informed of the cut on July 8th by Chief Philips when he sent out an email of our newest [school board] president’s, Dr. Glen Mederios, letter. The letter informed us that the JROTC program was being replaced by a Civil Air Patrol program because it was significantly cheaper. The next day, July 9, some of the cadets from the ranger platoon went to the school to see if we could save the program. When we arrived, 1SG was already starting to clean out the battalion of all of its contents. He explained to us what had happened and that he would be forced to retire. Our cadet commander, Jared Castaneda was able to arrange a meeting with Dr. Mederios that day so, Jared, our S5 assistant, Aaron Hasimoto, and I went to meet with our president.
“In the meeting we asked several questions. The most important was Jared asking why we were informed so late in the summer. The response of Dr. Mederios shocked us all. His exact words were, ‘Well, the reason for the late notice is that, if I informed the parents and the teachers of this cut earlier, it would give hope to trying to raise the money. When looking at these numbers, you can see it is a hopeless effort.’ Naturally our next question was how much money did the program cost. At first, he told us that the JROTC program costs over $200,000 dollars. Then he changed it to $175,000. He then said CAP would costmuch less, just $25,000. The only concern I have about this is that CAP is a government-funded cadet program with volunteers as instructors. This came straight from our Dr. Mederios and told us that he is only paying them so that they come to Saint Louis every day after school with no exceptions.
“After our meeting we informed the rest of the cadets who came and most of them were worried about joining CAP or joining the Punahou Battalion. I thought that this is the wrong way to go and that saving the battalion is possible. Cadet Captain Erica Bantolina and Cadet Sergeant Maybelle Lee, my two good friends, shared my thoughts and together we started this cause. Our first action was creating the Facebook page to first see if people would be interested in helping us. After about 200 likes, we decided to go through with this. We originally posted that the cost of saving the program was $175,000 but then removed it after being called by Chief Philips saying that the amount was incorrect.
“Our next action was finding a person who would be our financial advisor and see if they could talk to Dr. Mederios. We were able to contact the father of an alumni from the JROTC program who is another good friend of ours. Without hesitation, he agreed and worked vigorously to set up a meeting. We also contacted the former board president, Judge Kirimitsu, since he encouraged and supported our program throughout his years. They met with Dr. Mederios yesterday, July 10th, and were able to get the go-ahead to collect the money. We also found out that the actual cost to keep the program alive was $90,000.
“We have two major donors ready to give us money once we have an account set up so that we do not run into any legal problems. Our first donor is a 2010 alumni named Dee Soliman who was the BC (Battalion Commander, a cadet) for the JROTC program. He has created an account on gofundme.com to collect money. I contacted him and he has given us his full consent of overseeing the account and receiving the money once he has reached his quota of 10,000 dollars. Our second donor is Eugene Hong who was also a program alumnus. The reason he is so passionate of saving this program is because his senior year was 1SG Akuna’s first year of service at the school. I have already informed him that we cannot accept any money until we have an account set up. I plan on contacting the Saint Louis Alumni Association and another major donor, Clarence TC Ching, who recently gave a generous donation to construct our new schol gym.
“This is where we stand now and plan on collecting the money by next week. We do not want to post anything on our page about the actual amount of 90,000 dollars and that we were given the right to collect the money because we do not want people asking us where to send the money. Once we set up a money collecting account, we will release the information.
“Thank you again for giving us the time out of you day to listen to our situation, Mr. Marshall, you do not know how much this means to us.”