LINDEN, NJ — The Linden High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps withstood the rigors of a full military inspection on Feb. 19, when a team led by Commander Penny Glover, executive officer of Navy Recruiting District New York, visited to give the regiment a meticulous once-over.
The military inspection allowed the students to put their best foot forward before active-duty service personnel, as well as to a crowd of more than 100 parents and school and community leaders during a ceremony in the LHS gym.
The Navy Junior ROTC unit consists of 425 cadets, about a quarter of the school population.
“How many people were nervous today coming to this inspection?” Glover asked the cadets, many of whom raised their hands. “Me too. That doesn’t stop. So you know you have to prepare yourself. And part of that is everything you are doing in this program, and it is amazing. I know this was out of a lot of your comfort zones. I give you props for what you did today, stepping out and doing something different. You guys are learning how to step out and be uncomfortable today. That goes a long way. You’ll see.”
Three senior cadets were honored at the end of the ceremony for having committed to join the armed forces after graduation. They are Tamera Thorn, Marines; Ruben Rua, Marines; and Patrick Hickey, Army. They were honored with a loud ovation as they stood with family members.
Commander Boyd Decker, a retired Navy pilot who is senior naval science instructor at LHS, praised the student leadership of the regiment: Commanding Officer Mario Rodriguez, Executive Officer Licxy Cardoso, Command Master Chief Daniel Castillo and Operations Officer Ganesh Ramcharran.
He also commended students who received promotions during the ceremony.
“What I love is the answer that I get about why these kids want to seek the higher positions in the ROTC unit,” Decker said. “Genuinely what I see is that these kids do it for no other reason than what that position will mean in their ability to help others and to help the program. … They care about what the program has done for them and they want to give back.”
The crowd also got to watch two cadet drill teams — the Unarmed Freshman Drill Team, commanded by Cadet Seaman Apprentice Isabella Gonzalez, and the Armed Drill Team, commanded by Cadet Ensign Julian Oquendo — and a three-man trick team made up of Jean Saintil, Cristian Ventura and Youssef Hassanein.
Interim Superintendent Denise Cleary said she has been impressed with the NJROTC since her days as a teacher, then principal, at Linden High.
“There are so many things to be proud of in the Linden Public Schools, and all of the young men and women standing before me are on top of the list,” she said. “This program put Linden High School on the map, put our district on the map, and it’s all due to the dedication and commitment that you make. This program is not about streaming students into the military, it’s about building leaders.”
Other school officials attending the ceremony included Board of Education President Gregory R. Martucci, Vice President Katarzyna Kozak, board member Tracey Birch, Acting Assistant Superintendent Michael Walters, LHS Principal Yelena Horré and Human Resources Director Michele Dorney.
Many Linden city officials came out to support the cadets, including Mayor Derek Armstead, Police Chief David Hart, Fire Chief William Hasko Jr., and Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey, who is mother to cadet Patrick Hickey.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be the mayor of a city that has such an outstanding group of young people representing us,” Armstead said during remarks to the crowd. “You represent this town so well.”