By PAM SCHIFF
For 14 years, Lieutenant Colonel (ret) John Murray has guided, educated, supported and taught hundreds of students in the United States Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps …
By PAM SCHIFF
For 14 years, Lieutenant Colonel (ret) John Murray has guided, educated, supported and taught hundreds of students in the United States Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
And, on May 25, at the 34th Changing of Command ceremony past and present cadets joined to surprise him and wish him farewell.
"Yesterday we had an abbreviated change of command between the outgoing cadet commander J’ly Khea and incoming commander of the 34th Corps of Cadets Isabella Ba. Imbedded within that change of command was a surprise retirement celebration for me. I was completely taken back by the number of former cadets who took time out of their day to come and give their well wishes," Murray said.
In addition to the cadets who came to the event, others Skyped in from Germany and Texas to say hello.
"It was such a rewarding experience to see them all once again," said Murray.
The surprise itself was organized by Isabella Ba.
"Originally, my mom (Regina) and I thought of the idea to do a retirement party for Colonel. She reached out to Sgt. Major Moniz and asked to organize a party. I recruited some of the other cadets involved to bring things like drinks or decorations and we presented him with gifts and memories from the year. The day of the party was our last leadership lab of the year and the changing of Command Ceremony," said Ba.
Genesis Aldana, a former student and Battalion Commander, joined forces with Ba and recruited about 30 or so former students.
The Bread Boss, parents of former student Ethan Jones donated pastries and cupcakes for the event.
A gift from the 33rd corps of cadets, they gave Murray a signed scrapbook full of pictures from this school year.
"Colonel was not aware this was going to happen. He was very excited and surprised at all the guests and well wishers. We are going to miss his leadership tremendously," said Ba.
He was humbled by the surprise and the effort the cadets showed.
"I’ve worn the uniform of the uniform of the U. S. Army as soldier, officer and attack helicopter pilot for 38 years, and what I experienced that day was the most gratifying experience of either my military, or Cranston Public Schools system careers," Murray said.
Over the years, he's had countless cadets come back to East to see him and thank him for being a positive influence in their lives.
"But, the truth is, these great young men and women with their hard work, perseverance and positive spirit have given back to me 10 times over. I really am a very lucky man, and I have a strong bond with them," Murray said.
Former cadets had high praise and respect for Murray.
"Colonel Murray gave me a nickname in high school and 10 years later after the first time of seeing him, without hesitation called me the nickname. An outstanding leader and role model, and I probably wouldn’t have as much involvement in the military if it wasn’t for him," said Army Recruiter Will Naylor, Cranston East class of 2012.
Murray expressed how honored he was that the citizens of Cranston trusted him to mentor their sons and daughters and he was privileged to have done so.
Speaking on behalf of the current freshman Corps of Cadets, Danny Song offered much praise for the Colonel as a man and an instructor.
"We are so sad to see him leave. For us freshmen he was a huge mentor, he taught us a lot, what the true meaning of leadership, discipline, respect not only for yourself but others. He is simply impossible to replace," said Song.
A few lessons Song said Colonel taught them were as follows: to challenge yourself to do more, be prepared to face the world when coming out of high school and to motivate young men and women to be better citizens.
Murray's plans for the future aren't completely confirmed but he has several options.
"As far as the future is concerned, I think I’m Rhode Island’s only attack helicopter pilot, commercial Quahoger and will continue to commercial fish to remain physically and mentally healthy. In addition, I will be a full time grandpa."
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here