Even with the school year cut short, McClain’s Cadet Corps program surpassed last year’s service hours by more than 500 hours.
Last year, cadets provided 1,787 hours of community service. This year, the cadet corps matched last year’s hours in mid-January, and by mid-March, just as Ohio’s stay-at-home order went into effect, cadets had completed 2,303 hours of community service.
McClain’s Cadet Corps was activated in August 2018. In the program’s first year, there were 65 cadets in grades 8 through 12. This year, there are 85 cadets.
The cadet corps program is led by Master Sgt. John Wilson, an ‘86 McClain graduate who served two decades in the Air Force and led a successful cadet corps program at Paint Valley schools for more than a decade.
Wilson said previously that the overall mission of the program is not about getting students to sign up for the military. Instead, the program focuses more on experience, personal betterment, and serving the community.
The program is not just for students who intend to enter the military once they graduate, though the program would certainly give them an advantage if they did, Wilson said. The cadet corps is for any student interested and is about giving students the tools and life skills that will benefit them no matter what path they choose after graduation.
“I think the biggest myth I struggle to debunk with those not familiar with the program is that this is not a conduit to military service. Less than 20 percent of our graduates enlist,” Wilson said. “We know up front the cadets will go on to college, enter the workforce or enlist in the military. Maybe a combination of any or all of these things. The curriculum is designed to provide them with real-world life skills to thrive in the adult world.
“For instance, a cadet joining the workforce will have a working resume in hand and refined interview skills upon graduation, respect for authority, and accountability. They also have been exposed to leading and participating in groups to accomplish a mission. A college-bound cadet has honed study skills, adopted a realization of academic importance and a service to the community mentality. A cadet enlisting in the military will feel right at home in that environment. So you see, while this program may not be for everyone, there’s no such thing as a student who cannot benefit from it. I have yet to have a four-year graduating cadet voice regret having been in the Corps.”
While the cadet corps classes align with school being in session, members are busy all through the summer as well as weekends and holidays, Wilson said, and community service hours performed after Memorial Day are counted on the following school year.
Community and ceremonial service performed by the cadet corps is not limited to Greenfield but is also done throughout Highland County and Ross County. Cadets have also performed service in Lancaster and Columbus.
Those hours of serving the community have been accomplished through a vast number of activities. One of the ways is by providing military honors at the funerals of veterans. It is something that every military veteran that was honorably discharged is entitled to, Wilson said previously, but it is something that doesn’t always happen. With Wilson’s own experience in the Air Force Honor Guard for a large part of his military career, he is able to train the cadets in providing military honors, so they provide those honors whenever it is needed.
“It’s our goal to make sure no veteran goes without military honors while I’m here,” Wilson said.
The service record from the 2019-2020 school year details more community involvement by way of cadets not only participating in the funerals of veterans, but also in the corps’s Color Guard at various events, food drives, blood drives, running concessions at school and fundraising events, food preparation at churches, helping with set-up and take-down at community events, helping with school programs and events, ushering at the Tecumseh drama, and helping to build the new Imagination Kingdom playground.
“The current environment has brought everything to a grinding halt,” Wilson said. Just before the stay-at-home order first went into effect in mid-March, a cadet team provided military funeral honors for a Vietnam veteran, but they’ve not gathered as a unit since.
However, Wilson and most of the cadets are able to communicate daily through a group chat.
“That being said, there are still cadets out there doing good things for their families and in their community, just much more under the radar and at a distance,” Wilson said.