Commander Christian Gaskill, left, had high praise for the cadets of Linden High School’s NJROTC at their annual inspection on Feb. 21. Eight cadets who have committed to enter the U.S. military were also honored at the ceremony.
By Gary Miller
A high-ranking Navy officer came to Linden High School on Wednesday, Feb. 21, to inspect the school’s NJROTC cadets.
He left liking what he saw.
Commander Christian Gaskill and his team of active-duty service members from Navy Recruiting District – New York looked over each of the high school’s 450-plus cadets one-by-one, asking questions about their knowledge and their uniform as part of the unit’s annual inspection.
“This is a very impressive group,” Gaskill said in a speech during a ceremony that followed the inspection. “Your young men and women have decided to do something in high school that asks a little bit more of them. This program is about citizenship, learning about personal responsibility, a sense of accomplishment, and about community service. And you guys are nailing it on every single one of those tenets.”
Gaskill, a 1999 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, told the gym packed with school officials, local dignitaries and the cadets’ parents that he could tell as soon as he arrived that the Linden NJROTC was doing things the right way.
“I get the opportunity in this job to go to many of these things all across Long Island, New York City and northern New Jersey,” Gaskill said. “I can always tell before we start how good the program is when I see all these chairs filled up and I see all these bleachers filled up. Thank you guys so much for your support of your students, of your young men and women. You can tell the pride that you guys have in your school, the pride that you have in your program.
“Thank you for what you’re doing to make this a top-notch program. This has been a huge privilege for me and my team. I know my guys are very, very impressed with what you guys have displayed today.”
Commander Boyd Decker, senior naval science instructor at LHS, also thanked school administrators, the community and parents, and expressed the pride he has in his cadets every day – singling out the inspection.
“It’s seems like a simple thing, but to have an active-duty service member stand in front of you is intimidating, and it’s something these kids do great,” Decker said.
Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi echoed that pride.
“We get to see how special these cadets are on a regular basis,” he said. “But it’s a special joy to have someone as renown as Commander Gaskill come in and see what we see. His praise is a great honor for our NJROTC program – and very well-deserved.”
LHS Principal Yelena Horre said the inspection and ceremony were just a small glimpse at the impressiveness of the cadets.
“It is what you do and who you are every day that you walk the halls of Linden High School, on the weekends when you volunteer to help different organizations, when you show up at elementary schools and support what’s going on there,” Horre said. “You are the essence of who we are at Linden High School and you make me so tremendously proud.”
Mayor Derek Armstead said he is always impressed when he sees the cadets around town.
“With you gentlemen and ladies representing our country in the future, we are in great hands,” he said.
The ceremony started with a moment of silence for the 17 killed and 14 wounded at a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14. Regimental Operations Officer Alexandra Alvarez, a senior cadet who was acting as master of ceremonies, specifically recognized three JROTC members who were among those killed: Alaina Petty, 14, Martin Duque, 14, and Peter Wang, 15, who was holding open a door for other students to escape when he was killed.
The ceremony also included performances by the NJROTC drill teams, as well as recognition of eight senior cadets who have committed to join the armed forces. Those cadets lined up in the center of the gym with their families for an emotional and inspiring ceremony, met by applause from the crowd and their fellow cadets.
The cadets who have committed to serve in the armed forces are: Marine Corps: Luis Sanchez, Janali Casanas, Brandon Vetter, Bryan Galvis, Dylan Simoes and Ulysses Garcia. Navy: Allyson Valdivia and Jaden Gonzalez.
“While we pay special recognition today to these cadets who will go on to serve in the military, I’d like to point out that every cadet you see in front of you represents the best of the future,” Decker told the crowd. “While only a handful will go on to serve in the armed forces, all of them are amazing individuals and I know will go on to serve this country in some capacity.”