BERLIN — Only a month ago it was likely that this summer’s JROTC picnic was to be the its last, as the Navy listed Stephen Decatur High School’s programs one of those to be eliminated for lack of participation.
But since its inception, the program has been more about enthusiasm than raw numbers as demonstrated by the nearly unanimous support from alumni that lit the right kinds of fires under the right people and moved the Navy to reconsider its decision.
Lou Taylor, principal of SDHS, spoke about these connections and enthusiasm as he addressed both the alumni and the current participants in the saved organization.
He was clear that there were too many people who had worked too hard to thank them all properly, but he did cite the attention given to the situation by Sen. Jim Mathias, whose representative, Dorotheann Sadusky, made the trip from Annapolis to deliver Mathias’ congratulations.
Similarly, Taylor pointed to Dr. Jon Andes, school superintendent, as having worked tirelessly on making sure the school took all the steps it could to ensure that the program was saved.
“I’d never seen someone so committed to something,” he said of Andes’ efforts.
The near-loss of the program, he said, also sparked a bit of school pride, as students who didn’t participate in the program asked Taylor what part they could play in saving it.
Taylor also thanked Bryan Hamilton, a member of the SDHS Class of 2000, who was the rallying point for the alumni.
Hamilton read from only a few of the letters of support and endorsement that SDHS JROTC graduates had sent. Former students from all over the country wrote with passion and conviction that their personal success came, in part, because of their association with the JROTC program.
Local alumni representing nearly two decades worth of JROTC program participants also attended the picnic, as what could have been a funeral was turned into part-celebration, part-class reunion.
And among the heros of both were Master Chief David Reynolds and Cmdr. Christopher Deming. The two teachers were credited by all as being the force behind everyone’s dedication to the program.
The staff’s success at pushing students and holding them to a higher standard marked the men as significant figures in each of the former students’ lives.
When Taylor opened the celebration, he said he was grateful that the party, scheduled well before the decision to extend the program, was a celebration.
“When we were planning for this picnic, I wondered would this be a happy day or a sad day,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a happy day.”