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High school seniors dressed in their finest, celebrated accomplishments and checked off a milestone at the Col. Donald M. Wade Joint Services Military Ball Dec. 1. Seniors from the county’s seven high schools – along with their dates – got together at North Point High School to mark their participation in each schools’ JROTC program.

Joshua Redden, a Henry E. Lackey High School senior, comes from a military family. He was a member of the cadet program of the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Joining Lackey’s Air Force JROTC was a logical step for him. “I’m used to it,” Redden said of the military culture. He wants to join the Air Force, continuing the traditions he’s learned while gaining more. “It’s the discipline … I do like that,” he said. “It’s a sense of family and sort of like being part of a team, but a much bigger team.”

During the military ball, traditions such as toasts and cutting of the cake were followed. Toasts made with sparkling apple cider were made to the different branches of the U.S. military, guests and others. A toast with water was made to prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.  The oldest cadet present, Juan Villeda-Martinez of Thomas Stone High School, and the youngest, Antonio Kelley of Maurice J. McDonough High School, used a sword to ceremoniously cut a cake. JROTC instructors presented senior certificates to their cadets before dinner was served by North Point culinary students.

North Point underclassmen JROTC students helped at the event. “It’s a really great program,” said sophomore Havalynn Thorn, who is in her second year in the school’s Air Force JROTC. “The instructors are really nice and it helps me with organization.”

Every formal needs a king and queen to kick off the dancing. The names of St. Charles High School seniors Tyler Lawrence and Maya Young, members of the school’s U.S. Marine Corps JROTC, were selected at random by Barbara Palko, Board of Education vice chairman, from a bowl.

The ball is named in honor of the late Col. Donald M. Wade, a former member of the Board. He was instrumental in bringing the JROTC program to the county. Lackey has 95 Air Force cadets; La Plata High School has U.S. Navy 101 cadets; McDonough has 83 U.S Army cadets; 209 Air Force cadets are part of North Point’s program; 242 are in St. Charles Marines JROTC; 114 Army cadets are a part of Thomas Stone High School’s program; and Westlake High School has 120 Navy cadets enrolled in its JROTC program.

Images courtesy of McDonough H.S. Twitter