Every year, the Marco Island Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) singles out outstanding Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) cadets for recognition. This year, the DAR invited two cadets and their Senior Army Instructor to its March 21 meeting at the Hideaway Beach Club.
Both cadets maintain a high grade point average, are leaders in Lely’s JROTC program and are dedicated to volunteering and community service.
Taylor Murray is a junior, a Company Commander and the commander of the female color guard. Under her leadership, the guard placed 3rd in statewide competition with 30 other teams, a first for Collier County.
Taylor described how she was affected by her work with the Marine Corps Toys for Tots.
“One Christmas season, I was walking to a women’s car with her son’s new bike and Christmas toys that she had just received. She began to cry with happiness. She hugged me and thanked me. I started to tear up myself. That moment made my day, and from that point on, I knew I was making a difference in people’s lives.”
Taylor has definite plans for her future. “I’ll attend Hodges University, followed by a career as a K-9 officer with the Collier County Sheriff’s Department.”
Eli Smith, a junior from Marco Island, also is a cadet Company Commander. He told the ladies that he is proud that his mother and four other family members on his mother’s side are members of the DAR.
He also has spent many hours volunteering on Marco and in Naples.
Eli is has played on tennis teams at the Marco Island Charter Middle School and now at Lely High School.
“I have learned the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Tennis helped me build my character to be a gracious loser and a humble winner.”
Eli’s hobby is photography.
“When I got my first camera, you could say I became hooked on photography. Now, I’m the head photo editor for the yearbook staff my junior year.”
Eli is enthusiastic about being a cadet.
“I was expecting some enormous 6 foot 4 inch, solid muscle man to come out of nowhere and start yelling at me like no tomorrow. Instead, cadet Master Sergeant Santiago asked us our names and told us what he would be expecting of us as Lely JROTC cadets.”
He also has high praise for the leadership of Chief Warrant Officer Grade 4 (Ret) Michael A. Harp.
“He is teaching the cadets Army values of loyalty, dedication, respect, selfless service, honesty, integrity and personal courage.
“I will enlist in the Army, attend Embry Riddle aeronautical University in Florida and then specialize in criminal law.”
All three uniformed guests agreed that there is a misconception about JROTC.
Taylor Murray: “It isn’t a class that ships you off into the military. It helps you grow as a young citizen into one of tomorrow’s leaders. My life has surely changed for the better because of this program.”
Eli Smith: “JROTC is not about preparing high school students for the Army. It is about preparing them for their future, for college and for life. It’s the best decision I have ever made.”
CWO4 (Ret) Harp has been the JROTC Senior Army Instructor at Lely High School since 2009. He earned dozens of awards and medals during his 27-year military career, which included two tours of duty in Iraq.
“We currently have former cadets at each of the military academies and we average over $750,000 in scholarship offers each year for our four-year cadets. We are foremost a ‘stay in school’ program designed to stress the importance of education for children.”
For JROTC details, visit: www.lelyjrotc.net
The DAR aims to preserve the spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence. For information, call Barbara Messere at (239) 389-1574.