DAR's final meeting takes patriotic turn

Chris Curle, Special to the Eagle

From local students to a Vietnam War Navy chaplain, Marco Island’s Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) honored patriotism at its final meeting of the season at Hideaway Beach Club.

The DAR-JROTC medal was awarded to an outstanding Lely High School junior, a commanding officer in the Lely High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Islander Christopher Bryan is both an athlete and a scholar. He is a martial arts expert with a 2nd degree black belt in karate and a black belt in martial arts weapons. That refers to non-ballistic weaponry created in Asia before the 1900s.

Bryan is a Boy Scout who will become an Eagle Scout in November during his senior year. His volunteer work has included 116 hours of work at Camp Mackle, a Marco Island summer sports camp for grade school children. He is a JROTC company executive officer and maintains a 3.4 grade point average.

High school students honored by Marco Island’s DAR, from left, Elliot Totten, Christopher Bryan and Caitlyn Schmidt.

The DAR chapter awarded graduating senior Elliott Totten its scholarship for academic excellence. At Seacrest Country Day School, Totten is active in music and theater. He volunteers in the community and has held a variety of jobs while maintaining excellent grades. Totten will attend Florida Gulf Coast University.

In his patriotism essay for the DAR scholarship, Totten wrote, “I am proud of the patriotism my grandparents and ancestors showed by striving to be strong citizens of the United States. I want to instill a sense of patriotism in those around me by embracing whatever my future holds. In a mere six months, I will have the chance to create a life where nothing will hold me back from pursing my own American dream.”

Caitlyn Schmidt is the DAR Christopher Columbus Essay Contest winner for 2017. The national DAR and the National Italian American Foundation sponsor the annual essay contest on Christopher Columbus. Schmidt wrote on how the technology of the era affected the historic voyage. 

Schmidt is graduating from the Marco Island Academy and will attend Stanford University in California. She will major in bioengineering or pre-med.

Pastor Jan Werson, associate pastor at the Marco Island Presbyterian Church, was the guest speaker at the meeting. His presentation was in conjunction with the DAR partnership with the Department of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration. Pastor Werson told of his Navy experience flying jet fighter escorts for the helicopters that air lifted U.S. personnel at the fall of Saigon. After 12 years in the Navy, he joined the ministry and began a second career as a Navy Chaplain. 

Marco Island Presbyterian Church Pastor Jan Werson was invited to speak to Marco’s DAR by its regent, Karen Lombardi.

The DAR members presented Pastor Werson with a national DAR certificate and lapel pin, which honor him for his service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War and his counseling Vietnam veterans and their families.

The JROTC is a U.S. Department of Defense youth development program. It fosters character and leadership for America’s high school students. To learn more about the program at Lely High School, contact CW4 (Ret) Michael A. Harp, Senior Army JROTC Instructor, 239-377-4253, arpm@collierschools.com

The DAR has 180,000 members in 3,000 chapters worldwide.  Members are women 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot in the American Revolution.

The DAR supports the active US Military and veterans with more than 200,000 hours of volunteer time annually at VA hospitals and other facilities.  Members donate care packages, phone cards and needed personal items to America’s service personnel abroad. Members also participate in naturalization ceremonies and recognize outstanding veterans and ROTC/JROTC cadets.

The Marco Island Chapter was established in 1976. Monthly luncheon meetings are at 10:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Potential members and visitors from other chapters are welcome.  Contact Karen Lombardi at 239-394-0028.