School shootings put ROTC in unique position

by Bella Bungcayao

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ROTC member Lindsey Vessels has her pins adjusted on her uniform by a fellow cadet.

Leadership and discipline are two of many attributes JROTC students are taught to uphold in their schools.

Yet this program has been both criticized and praised nationally because of the recent Parkland, Fla. school shooting, and the involvement of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School JROTC.

Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooter responsible for the death of 17 students and staff, was, in fact, an ROTC cadet at Stoneman Douglas.

This rogue member, however, did not reflect the practices of the entire Parkland program.

As more details of the shooting started to uncover, many stories were told about JROTC members, and their heroism for protecting their peers. Some of these students even lost their own life, including 15-year-old Peter Wang.

According to witnesses, Wang was pulling students from the hallways into safety before he was killed by a single bullet.

Because of Wang’s selflessness shown on Feb. 14, he was honored with a traditional military funeral.

Two other JROTC cadets who were killed, named Martin Duque and Alaina Petty, were also said by fellow students to have been ushering their peers out of the halls.

These stories touched JROTC members nationwide, like Victoria Southern, who is the Corps Commander for Jeff High’s JROTC program.

“I think that the individuals in JROTC who took those life-threatening risks showed true leadership and service before self,” Southern said. “Which is something that is taught in the program.”

Southern and her JROTC peers took class time to write notes of encouragement and praise to these students, and sent them to the cadets in Parkland.

Retired Colonel Robert Benning, one of the two advisors of Jeff’s JROTC program, hopes his cadets feel encouraged by these stories of heroism, if the school was in the event of an active shooter.

“I would hope my students would feel the urge to protect their peers,” Benning said. “That type of bravery is what is taught in the program. However I wouldn’t want any of them to run out and confront an active shooter.”

These three students who lost their lives during this tragedy let their legacies live on accredited to their JROTC teachings. Their practice of service before self, leadership, and dependability, unfortunately, would lead to their cause of death.

However because of their heroics, it’s safe to say many other lives were saved.

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