Appeal Staff Writer
As she furrowed her brow and squinted over her right shoulder at the line of parents, official observers from the U.S. Navy and even the school district superintendent in the grandstands, Chelsea Milburn strode, as did her company, a bit quicker – just steps away from completing her first Naval Junior ROTC annual inspection as Company Commander at Carson High School on Wednesday.
As she stepped off the school’s soccer field to receive hugs from her fellow cadets and congratulatory handshakes from parents, she paused and finally – exhaled.
“Wow – yeah, that was a relief,” said the 17-year-old senior whose four-year ROTC career seemed to culminate on the unseasonably warm afternoon. “I’m definitely looking forward to competitions coming up and finishing out the year.
“But this was a big one.”
Indeed, for the four platoons of more than 80 students from the Carson High student body, the annual inspection is one of the year’s rites of passage, and the culmination of late-summer/early-fall practices that take up more than 10 hours a week.
“It’s a commitment for these kids – and I shouldn’t say ‘kids,'” said Luther Hook, a Naval operations officer and guest inspector for Wednesday’s event. “These kids looked really sharp today. I’ve been in the Navy for 22 years and this is some of the best I’ve seen.”
Hook, who took a moment before the cadets exited the field to also thank parents for encouraging their students to participate in the program assured them that the cadets “are certainly our best – these are the future.”
Heady words, ones that Milburn took to heart.
“I think I can speak for all the (cadets) when I say we put everything we have into today and our (upcoming) drill meets,” she said. “But, to have this behind us – it’s pretty exciting.”
While the Carson High JROTC has a regional drill meet coming up next month in Spanish Springs, which Milburn said the company plans to finish in the top five, she also talked about future plans.
And no, it’s not your typical “senioritis” sojourn to Cancun – though she will be seeing the world.
“I’ve already enlisted in the Marine Corps,” she said.
Former Marine Cliff Weaver, who fought in the Korean War after dropping out of high school midway through his senior year to serve, was on hand Wednesday to watch his grandson, Evan Pearson, 16.
“I have to give all these kids a ton of credit – especially the way things are today,” Weaver said. “My grandson’s just a sophomore, I don’t know what he’s going to do, but for now he’s enjoying ROTC and it gives him a nice direction.”
Parent Nina Paradise, whose sons Kyle, 15, and Derek, 14, both won individual awards for presentation Wednesday, was in the grandstands snapping pictures with her digital camera between applause.
“Of course I’m proud of them,” she said. “Their big brother is a Marine and they’re following in his footsteps, I guess.
“It’s something I’d encourage every parent to support. It helps keep them out of trouble. It gives them something to do – all the kids are great and it’s something they can enjoy with their friends.”
The only possible drawback?
“Well, there’s a lot of ‘yes ma’am,’ ‘no ma’am,'” Paradise said. “It’s great, but sometimes it’s like ‘OK – I’m still just your mom.'”
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.