Issaquah High School Navy JROTC salutes end of an era
March 13, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
Longtime program to be disestablished at end of school year
Master Sgt. Richard DeMarco several times referred to the evening as historic, as well as the last of its kind.
On the evening of March 7, the Issaquah High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps took to the school’s gym and held its 40th — and final — annual Pass in Review Parade, destined to become the last major public event held specifically by the IHS unit.
Due to falling enrollment within the local unit and budget reductions within the military, the Navy has decided to disestablish the IHS JROTC and some 20 other units nationwide at the end of this school year.
Local cadets wishing to continue in the program will be able to do so, but will need to transfer to the Liberty High School Navy JROTC.
In comments following the March 7 event, DeMarco said it’s not clear whether students will be able to take their normal academic classes at IHS and travel to Liberty for NJROTC. Because of the logistics, such as different schedules and the distance between the two schools, DeMarco was not optimistic students would be able to travel back and forth. As for the final Pass in Review, DeMarco admitted it was a bittersweet event.
“It was exciting to show the students off,” he said, but he expressed disappointment that it was the last such event.
“It’s actually been an ROTC experience,” said Alexis Grosclaude, 17, a member of the IHS color guard.
She used “ROTC” not as an acronym, but as an adjective — pronouncing it “rot C” — and saying that was a common way of describing worthwhile events for unit members.
“We’re sad the unit is closing down because we still have so much to offer,” she added.
The Pass in Review is meant as a salute to observers, DeMarco said. But before that parade maneuver, the Issaquah unit put on several other displays of military precision. An unarmed drill team moved around the gym in complicated and precise marching patterns. The display was all the more impressive as it was completed with almost no verbal commands.
An armed drill team also took to the gym floor. The taped rifles could conceivably harm the gym floor if dropped. There was no need to worry, DeMarco said, telling the audience he’d never seen a cadet drop a weapon, putting a joking emphasis on the word “seen.”
When one cadet retrieved the weapon he dropped toward the end of the unit’s performance, he received a round of applause from the crowd in the gym’s bleachers.
The evening’s visitors included several school board members, school administrators and representatives from local police and fire units, all invited guests. Along with any military veterans present, the special guests were invited to stand along the gym floor for the Pass in Review.
A 21-year Marine Corps veteran, DeMarco has been with the Issaquah schools for 10 years. He is out of a job when the IHS unit disbands. However, DeMarco said he is optimistic and hopes to stay in Issaquah.
Following the Pass in Review, he had all of the cadets gather on the bleachers for a final group picture, a picture he referred to as historic.
“I can accept it,” said cadet Jack Trinneer, 15, of the unit’s pending demise. The decision belonged to the Navy, he said. But he also made it clear he intended to transfer to Liberty in order to continue in the NJROTC. The NJROTC is more than a school group or an extracurricular activity, he insisted.
“We are a family,” he said.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.