BRONX, NY – Truman High School’s 6th floor culinary cafe was transformed Friday into a blend of glamour and patriotism that would make the Commander in Chief jealous. This, as the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) hosted their annual Military Ball and Dining Out event.
The event, which looks very much like a miniature version of the prom, is the JROTC program’s chance to celebrate the end of the school year and say goodbye to their senior leaders.
“They work really hard and they committed to four years with the program, and now we have to say goodbye to them and this is like their final goodbye,” according to MSgt Earl Persing, one of two instructors of the program. “And then we have the new cadets who are coming up so it gives them an idea what to expect in the future.”
The event kicked off with a formal opening ceremony, invocation and toasts. That was followed by a somber ceremony to honor and remember service members who are prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).
“I get the goosebumps,” said C/Maj Suhailey Saavedra, referring to the ceremony. She’s the acting corps commander. That title also led to duties as the “President of the Mess,” which is equivalent to the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. “It was my first time [as president] and I was nervous, so I didn’t know exactly the reaction I would get.”
Six students were also honored by being formally inducted into the Kitty Hawk Air Society. Membership in the honor society is extended to cadets who score a grade average of 80 percent or higher, and who participate in extended community service projects outside of the classroom. Their contributions also helped the ROTC program rack up 8,200 hours of community service and earn the title of “Distinguished Unit with Merit.”
“Words just can’t explain it. You see them grow from young, scared kids into young adults,” said MSgt Persing, a 20-year veteran of the Air Force. He and fellow instructor MSgt Leon Messina were both honored as “Oustanding Instructors with Merit.” The combination of the instructor and unit awards is not currently held by any other AFJROTC program in New York or New Jersey. MSgt Persing said his 14-year tenure at Truman was an unlikely pairing to begin with.
“Never.. never.. never.. I had about 17-18 calls coaxing me to come up here, and I’m from central Pennsylvania,” he said. “I didn’t really know anything about the Bronx, didn’t want to come to the Bronx… but the first day I walked in here and met those kids I just fell in love with it.” MSgt Persing and MSgt Messina drive 100 miles one-way from their homes to the school.
“It’s the best job I ever had.” Click here for photos from the event.