It was an awards ceremony centered around honor, formality and tradition and duty.
Lt. Colonel Zachary Forester of Tuba City High School and varied military personnel gave final year-end recognition to high school student MJROTC who will graduate this year, and awarded several student trainees for specialized honors in the areas of scholastics, military excellence, merit, Americanism, leadership, outstanding service, distinguished training, athletics, marksmanship, and group awards.
The podium was crowded with dignitaries from various areas of military service. Representatives from the American Legion, National Defense, Veterans of WWII, USMC, VFW posts, Department of Defense from the State of Arizona, United States Air Force, and the Administration and Governing Board of Tuba City High.
Special guests who presented the varied awards to the MJROTC students waited patiently as each student approached the podium.
The most dramatic moment of the evening came when outgoing Commanding Officer Cadet Captain Benson Sahu, a member of the Hopi Tribe-Bear/Coyote clan and senior at TC High gave his sword of command to newly designated Commander, Cadet First Lieutenant Dezbah Begay, junior at TC High and a member of the Navajo Nation-Pima/Towering House Clan in a solemn exchange.
A hearty round of applause and cheers went up all around to acknowledge both Sahu’s former post and upcoming Begay’s new leadership role.
The list is long for both Sahu and Begay in the area of high school military honors. Sahu, the son of Thedora Namingha and Benson Sahu, Sr. has received awards for Sharpshooter, Marksmanship, National Sojourners Award, Sons of the American Revolution, Physical Achievement, Civic Service as well as this year’s commanding officer. Likewise for Begay, the daughter of Monica and Raymond Butler, who has achieved Reserved Officer’s Association award, Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer, Athletic, Color guard and Civic Service Award.
After the ceremony the banquet began, Forester’s student cadets gave impromptu, unsolicited words of appreciation to Forester, as he is retiring from Tuba City High School this year. The students gave Forester praise for providing structure, discipline and respect to their academic experience at TC High. They credited him with showing them the full meaning of “team-work.”
Forester has told them countless times over the year that teamwork and working together as one is the best way to accomplish great things.
This concept is also a native concept, as consensus building and group thought is extremely important for survival.
Student cadets also mentioned Dr. Harold Begay, the current TC Superintendent , who is also a Vietnam veteran and Mr.Eddie Tuchawena who also served in Vietnam for understanding their commitment and interest in an MJROTC program like the one at TC High.
Visiting dignitaries that attended the ceremony on behalf of the TC High MJROTC program were: Ed Pennell, American Legion Post 3, Mrs. Eula Reall, National Defense Chairman, Sam Little, USN(Ret) WWII Vet, SSgt. Tommy Bellone, USMC, Mrs. Marta Kumer, Executive Secretary, Dept. of AZ., Rex Stermer, Commander, VFW Post 1709. Ms. Bobbi Alger, Area Director-WMA, Capt. James Birgl, MCJROTC Project Officer, 8th MCD, Mrs. Marsha Land-Griffin- TC Governing Board, and Mr. Edward Tuchawena, Asst. Principal of TC High.
Students receiving awards were:
American Legion Bronze Medal for Scholastics-S/SSgt Kathryn McDonald
American Legion Bronze Medal for Military Excellence-C/Lt Ivalyn Phillips
American Veterans Junior ROTC Award-C/Lt Jaclyn Tsosie Daedalian Junior ROTC Achievement-C/Sgt LaCosta Scott
Daughters of the American Revolution-C/Lt Maria King Fleet Reserve Assoc. Junior ROTC Military Excellence-C/Lt Iris Tohannie
Military order of the Purple Heart/Junior ROTC-C/Lt Tamara Lee
Military Order of the World Wars Award of Merit-C1st Sgt. Kyna Paddock National Sojourners Junior ROTC-Americanism-C/GySgt Harry Riggs Noncommissioned Officer Association Leadership award-C/Cpl Antonianette Thiefault
Reserve Office Asso. Junior award-C/Lt Darren Kerley Sons of the American Revolution Bronze- C/Lt Jared Means
Retired Officers Asso. Medal-C/Capt. Benson Sahu
Veterans of Foreign Wars Medals: Senior:
C/Sgt Aaron Black Soph: C/SSgt Kathryn McDonald Frosh: C/Cpl Aaron Benally
Women’s Marines Asso. Outstanding Cadet: C/Cpl Sarajean Claw
Outstanding Cadet Award: C/Cpl Joshua Talayumptewa
Officer Leadership Award: C/Lt Jaclyn Tsosie
Noncommissioned Officer Award: C/Cpl Sarajean Claw
Distinguished Military Training Award: C/PFC Rocky Wilson
Distinguished Scholastic Achievement Award:
S/1st Sgt. Kyna Paddock C/Cpl Aaron Benally C/Sgt Aaron Black C/Cpl Sarajean Claw
Color Guard Award: Dezbah Begay, Leah Brown, Vanessa Dickson,
Kathryn McDonald, Michelle Onesalt, Ivalyn Phillips, Aaron Benally, Troy Dennison, Veronda Jackson, Jared Means, Kyna Paddock, Jacklyn Tsosie, Benson Sahu.