The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

April 11, 2009

Students gather for JROTC exercises, marching exhibitions

By Greg Grisolano

For Jeff Clyde and his relatives, military service is a family affair.

Clyde, the cadet battalion commander of Joplin High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program, is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served as a cadet in the same program back in the 1940s, and his mother, Terri Birch, who was a member of Webb City High School’s battalion. His younger brother, Grant, is a sergeant in the Joplin program as well.

“My mom was the first female full-bird colonel of Webb City High School,” he said. “The sense of tradition in the entire city is just amazing. The support of the military is amazing.”

Having her two sons follow in her footsteps is a source of pride for Birch.

“Both of them grew up with me in the Army,” she said. “I know that it’s a good living, and it’s an amazing opportunity. It’s something they’re not going to get anywhere else.”

Clyde was one of dozens of students taking part in drill exercises and marching exhibitions at Memorial Hall on Saturday to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Joplin’s JROTC program. The program provides leadership training for young men and women in high school, and can serve as a precursor to military officer training.

“I plan on making it a career,” said Clyde, who has an ROTC scholarship to Missouri State University in Springfield. “I want to be an Apache helicopter pilot.”

The event also included an exhibition by the U.S. Army Old Guard drill team. The soldiers also worked individually with cadets to improve their poise and precision on drill routines.

The Old Guard Drill Team is the escort to the president, guards the Tomb of the Unknowns and performs military honors for funerals in Arlington National Cemetery. The soldiers are charged with maintaining the traditions of the Army, and showcasing those traditions to the world during state and federal funerals and parades.

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