New Junior ROTC program exposes Mahar students to military service in Orange

Members of the school’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps retire the colors after a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday.

Members of the school’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps retire the colors after a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Local veterans stand during the singing of the national anthem during an assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday.

Local veterans stand during the singing of the national anthem during an assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Student speakers acknowledge our country’s past conflicts during a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday.

Student speakers acknowledge our country’s past conflicts during a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Retired Massachusetts National Guard Brig. Gen. John Driscoll speaks during a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday.

Retired Massachusetts National Guard Brig. Gen. John Driscoll speaks during a Veterans Day assembly at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-12-2023 5:00 PM

ORANGE — Retired Lt. Col. Glenn Scott noticed a few snafus in one of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps demonstrations on Thursday. But that’s not uncommon for a program barely 2½ months old.

“I think it went well, very well,” he said. “I’ve got to hand it all to Master Sgt. [Martin] Mulvihill. He’s the one who’s been working with the color guard and they’ve got it down. Couple little glitches here and there, but there’s always room for improvement.”

The Junior ROTC program that started the final week of August was involved in three Veterans Day events in Mahar’s auditorium, marking the first time the young cadets had donned uniforms.

“I think it went pretty good,” Mulvihill, who in June retired from the Vermont National Guard, said after the second event on Thursday. “I mean, these guys have only been practicing for about four weeks now. And we’ve only been doing a one-hour practice twice a week.”

There were events for middle-schoolers from 9 to 10 a.m., for first-year students and sophomores from 10:10 to 11:10 a.m., and for juniors and seniors from 1 to 2 p.m. Veterans were invited to attend. Mahar Key Club members took turns at the podium, delivering readings of the Gettysburg Address, “A Soldier” by Robert Frost and “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae. The Key Club also provided brief descriptions of the conflicts the United States has been involved in.

“They were smooth in their delivery,” Scott said. “[A] very moving event, I think.”

Mulvihill and Scott have been fostering the Junior ROTC program the past 11 weeks. It is the only program of its kind in Franklin County and so far has recruited about 30 cadets in grades eight through 12. Cadets plan to attend the Nov. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for the new Fisher Hill Elementary School and members of the program’s robotics team are expected to observe a competition in Belmont this weekend in what Scott lightheartedly called a “recon” mission. The Junior ROTC program also has a drill team.

“Most of the kids that are in the program, they are enjoying being in the program, because it’s something different,” Mulvihill said.

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Principal Scott Hemlin explained he first applied to the U.S. Department of the Army for such a program 15 years ago when he was the dean of students and got a call in August 2022 that the school was getting the green light at last. He noted the department can finance only so many programs due to budget restraints.

“[The cadets] seem really excited,” Hemlin said. “[Mulvihill and Scott] are very eager to grow the program. They’re working on all sorts of community service events and it’s starting in a very positive way. It’s been well received.”

Hemlin said Mulvihill and Scott were specifically hired to run this program. The Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District pays 50% of the instructors’ salaries and the Army pays the other half.

Junior Noah Lupien said he enjoys the program and looks forward to participating in color guard competitions.

“I’ve always thought the military was a cool idea,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s definitely something I’m going to do after high school but I felt that this would be a good opportunity for me to have some sort of experience of what it could be like.”

Freshman Riley Murphy mentioned he joined the program a bit later than others but he’s glad he did.

“I was in a class that wasn’t really right for me, so I decided to give it a try and the military’s definitely … a career that I’ve always considered,” he said.

At Thursday’s second Veterans Day event, retired Massachusetts National Guard Brig. Gen. John Driscoll started the ceremony by speaking to the dedication and commitment all service members possess.

“We all raised our right hand, swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” he said. “And each of us that took that oath — whether the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard — basically writes a … blank check payable to the citizens of the United States up to their lives, because when our nation calls, the veterans have to work.”

Senior Alivia Patch served as an emcee of sorts and introduced each Key Club member who spoke. Toward the start of the ceremony, guests watched a scripted video of a military veteran becoming frustrated over the report of a war memorial being defaced. He drives his grandsons to a theater to watch an inspirational video about the history of the armed forces and the youngsters, like others in the audience, slowly become enamored with the content and swell with patriotism as they are told veterans fought and sacrificed for them.

Mahar’s chorus performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful,” and veterans of the military’s five branches stood to be recognized during a recording of “The Pride of America!” The tribute, arranged by Larry Clark and Greg Gilpin, features the official song of each branch. The ceremony ended with a recording of taps.

   Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.