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First JROTC medal given by the DAR

The Daughters of the American Revolution gave its first ever Junior ROTC Medal this year. The winner of the bronze medal is Makayla Marie Long of Milner, a foster child who lives at Faith’s Home and aims for a bright future. Originally from the Atlanta area, Long, 18, has attended Lamar County Comprehensive High School since her freshman year, when she first moved into the local group home. ”It’s a lot quieter here,” she said of rural Lamar. “I like being able to see more animals. I’d like to have a horse, but Dad says we have dogs and that’s enough.” Larry and Faith Herndon have been Dad and Mom since the first week she came to their home. In fact, though she officially ages out of the foster system upon graduation in May she plans to stay with them and attend Gordon College for the next four years. ”I’m going to take early childhood education and become a kindergarten teacher,” she said. “I love children and being able to help people. I want to help children learn how to learn when they’re younger so they know what to do when they’re older.” At the moment she is concentrating on schoolwork, JROTC and preparing for the April 3 prom ‘“ she has the entire day planned ‘“ but Long is an experienced babysitter and has worked at a Griffin day care center. Having spent two years in chorus, this is her first year in ROTC. Last year, as the yearbook photographer, she photographed the brand new program. ”I got to know Maj. (Paul) Stinson,” she said. “JROTC looked like it was fun and would teach me a lot,” she said. She says she learned about leadership, different ways of learning and how to help others without judging them. ”As a squad leader and corporal it’s my job to help cadets understand they represent JROTC and the school as a whole,” she said. “You have to reserve your image so the program can continue.” Helping people is close to Long’s heart. She entered the foster care system when she was 8 or 9 years old, followed by her sister and brother. ”I went from family member to family member,” she said. “My siblings and I were in the same house once since entering foster care. I came to live here from a group home in Newnan.” Her brother, 9, was recently adopted; Long visits him and his new family weekly. Her sister, she said, ran away and has two children of her own. ”I spoil my little brother rotten,” she said. “Every dime I get goes to him ‘“ and Chuck E Cheese. I want him to be like me and have good grades so he can go to college, so that’s his reward. In a way, I’m practicing teaching with him.” She is teaching him Spanish, which is part of his heritage. ”He needs to learn some of his background,” she said. “I hope to teach my students to be bilingual.” Long calls math a no brainer and enjoys literature classes, too. An avid reader who likes to curl up with a good John Grisham novel, she also writes poetry. She said her best inspiration is rhythm and blues music. ”I want to write a book one day,” she said. “I like to be able to express emotion and tell a story without saying much so people can get their own meaning out of it.” Next on her agenda, of course, is graduation. ”As the oldest of 12 grandchildren, I’ll be the first one in my family to graduate from high school,” she said. “Lots of family members are coming from all over Georgia and Florida. Then I’ll be the first to go to college.” The Junior ROTC Medal is sponsored by the National Defense Committee of the NSDAR. It recognizes senior cadets of outstanding ability and achievement. Winning cadets demonstrate loyalty and patriotism. A student must be in the top 25% of all their classes and demonstrate dependability, good character, adherence to military discipline, leadership ability and a fundamental and patriotic understanding of ROTC training. Recipients also receive a ribbon bar to be worn in lieu of the medal when appropriate.

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