The Linden High School NJROTC completed its annual inspection on Tuesday, Feb. 26, under the eyes of the Navy’s area manager. A ceremony followed that featured drill team performances and recognition of four cadets joining the Marines. Above are cadets Martin Manipol, Erik Hernandez, Onelvi Martinez and Maurice Faulk, who will begin boot camp shortly after graduation.
By Gary Miller
The Linden High School NJROTC performed admirably on Feb. 26 during its annual inspection by the area commander and active duty Navy personnel.
The inspection was followed by a ceremony in the LHS gym that featured a keynote speech by Commander Jimmie Miller, the NJROTC manager for Area 4, which includes 60 NJROTC units in Northeast states from Delaware to Maine, as well as Italy and Spain.
Linden’s NJROTC unit is made up of 421 cadets, about a quarter of the school population.
The most emotional moment of the ceremony came when four senior cadets were recognized for their commitment to join the Marine Corps after graduation. Maurice Faulk, Erik Hernandez, Martin Manipol and Onelvi Martinez were honored alongside family members at center court.
During his speech, Miller spoke directly to parents in attendance.
“We’re here to let you know that the Navy cares,” he said. “We recognize that no matter how fast they can run on a track, or how many baskets they can score in a game, or what their GPA might be upon graduation, every single one of our children … is just one bad decision away from messing up their entire life.”
Miller called the LHS NJROTC instructors onto the floor with him and made a promise to help the cadets reach their full potential.
“We will make this commitment to you,” he said. “When you send them to us, we will send them better back to you.”
He closed out by turning toward the 400 cadets assembled around the gym.
“Cadets, we love you more than you can ever know. Welcome to our family,” he said. “This has been a great inspection. Let’s finish the inspection strong. You guys are Linden! You are a legacy! So let’s do awesome. Hoorah?”
“Hoorah!” the cadets answered in unison.
Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi also spoke, calling the students the “heart and soul of our district.”
“You make us all so very, very proud,” he said. “Some of you will go on to have an active military career; most of you will not. However, the characteristics that you are learning in this program – leadership, integrity, discipline – these are all things that will stay with you throughout the rest of your life, and will help you be successful in anything that you do.”
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said the cadets are among the most disciplined students in the district.
“I am proud to be in a town with such a fine organization,” he said.
He also singled out Faulk, who is the unit’s command master chief and who performed as part of a rifle trick demonstration during the ceremony. He is also a neighbor of Armstead.
“For the last three or four years, I have watched him out in the back yard practicing with his gun,” Armstead said. “The practice and commitment that he has put into this organization, I’m not surprised by the excellence they exhibited today.”
Among the other honored guests in attendance were Assistant Superintendent Denise Cleary, LHS Principal Yelena Horré, Board of Education President Gregory R. Martucci, board members Dawn Beviano, Tracey Anne Birch, and Marianthe Manganello, Linden Police Chief David Hart, Linden Fire Chief Joseph Dooley, several active duty service personnel, and many of the cadets’ parents.
Commander Boyd Decker, senior Naval Science instructor at LHS, said he wanted to recognize all the cadets who made the honor roll for the second marking period, “but there were too many.” Instead he told the crowd that 123 cadets made Honor Roll, High Honor Roll, or Principal’s Honor Roll, which is about 30 percent of the unit. Those cadets will wear stars on their uniforms to signify the achievement.
Decker did individually recognize 23 cadets who earned an “Outstanding” mark in the inspection by Miller and his team. Each was given a uniform ribbon by Miller.
“To get on this list, you have to have performed in an exemplary fashion all year,” Decker said. “So these kids have shown their instructors exemplary appearance, inspection performance, attention to detail, and then they follow through on the Big Game Day today.”
The NJROTC drill teams performed to an impressed audience. They included the Freshman Unarmed Drill Team, commanded by Cadet Seaman Apprentice Daenna Lawrence; the Armed Drill Team, commanded by Faulk; and the Three-Man Trick Demonstration, featuring Faulk and brothers Mahesh and Rajesh Lopez.
Miller pointed out to the crowd how impressive everyone on the freshman unit performed, and that they are only three years out of sixth grade.
“That was pretty awesome,” he said. “They’ve come so far.”
Miller also joked after the trick demonstration: “No basketball courts were hurt during the performance” in which no one dropped his rifle.
Robertozzi also singled out Cadet Lawrence as “a young lady who exudes leadership.”