Hometown boys ready to join up | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hometown boys ready to join up

Susan Wood

The Sept. 11 attacks did not motivate three South Tahoe High seniors in ROTC to join the military. They were already going.

Now, they’re even more convinced they made the right choice.

Chad Cason, 17, hopes to enter the U.S. Naval Academy after he graduates, then join the U.S. Marines. His reason is simple – he likes challenges.

“Everyone says I’m crazy for doing that,” Cason said this week.

Jackie Cason, his mother, has mixed feelings too. With the prospect of a war looming and the reality of an unsettled world, she’s worried but supportive.

“Of course, as a mom, I’m not real happy with his career choice,” she said.

Chad Cason attended a weeklong U.S. Naval Academy seminar in Annapolis, Md., last summer. Next month, he’ll return to the Washington, D.C., area to attend a National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense, Intelligence and Diplomacy.

The conference gives selected youth an up-close view of a career in national security. A scheduled tour of the Pentagon was canceled.

Ben Yang, 16, attended the leadership conference last year with Cason. He also wants to attend the Naval Academy, then serve in the U.S. Navy.

“I do think it’s a shame something like (the terrorist attack) has to happen to realize American freedoms,” he said. “People don’t realize how great these freedoms are until they’re threatened.”

The resurgence in patriotism after the attack has also motivated Yang, Cason and fellow ROTC cadet Matt Hock, who will join the Army next year. Hock, 17, said he has no regrets about enlisting even as the country considers military action.

“I feel like I have more reason (to serve). That’s what the military is for,” he said.

If he feels it’s a good fit, Hock wants to put in 20 years in the Army. During the upheaval in southeast Asia, his stepfather served as a Green Beret and his biological father designed flight-guidance systems.

South Tahoe High ROTC Cmdr. Matt Williams said he’s proud of all the young men.

“They’re good kids with a lot of potential. They’re serious when they need to be, and they know how to have fun too,” he said.

While the ROTC program hasn’t been flooded with new members, interest in the armed services is high.

“We’ve been receiving a number of calls to us from a lot of people saying we’re here for our country if you need us,” Army Capt. Scott Rhoden said. Rhoden tracks recruitment in the Nevada offices of Carson City, Reno, Sparks and Fallon as well as the one in Susanville, Calif. His Army division averages 30 contracts for enlistment a month.

In the last week, Rhoden has even noticed a number of Vietnam War veterans calling to pledge their support, even though they’re too old to serve. The armed forces will take recruits from age 17, with parental consent, to 35.

The Navy averages three recruits a month in the Carson City office, while the U.S. Air Force enlists about six a month in the Reno recruitment office. Numbers from the Marines’ Reno office were unavailable.

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