I look like a proud mother here, and in a way I am. I presented the 2016 Crosby Army ROTC Scholarship to Cadet Marcelo Gonzales de Mendoza at the Army ROTC (Eagle Battalion) 2016 Award Ceremony at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Thursday, April 14. I have the pleasure of being among some of our country’s finest young men and women who will lead and defend our country, readily.
Meet Cadet Mendoza. What a fine young man. Well deserving of this year’s scholarship. He has already served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and one tour in Kuwait.
He graduated high school in Burnsville, North Carolina, in May 2003. That December he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Fire Protection Apprentice. In 2005, having transferred into the US Air Force Reserves, he decided to continue military service by enlisting in the US Army as an infantryman. In July 2006, he deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Seeking further challenges in his military career, Mendoza applied for and was accepted to the Engineer Dive School. After deploying once again to OIF in October 2008, he returned stateside and transitioned to Phase Two at NSA Panama City, FL, where he spent seven months successfully completing his training to become a second class diver.
In 2009, has put his extensive dive training to work at Fort Eustis, VA, where he served with the 569th Dive Team to prepare the unit for an upcoming deployment. After promotion to Sergeant and attending the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Benning, GA, in 2011, Mendoza attended the Advanced Leader Course. After another deployment to Kuwait and promotion to Staff Sergeant, Mendoza elected to separate from active duty to pursue his higher education with a college degree at ERAU to study Aeronautics with a double minor in Aeronautical Studies and Aviation Law. After a year attending ERAU, Mendoza once again felt compelled to serve his county so he enrolled in the university’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. He hopes to branch infantry and pass his experience and knowledge on to other soldiers as a commissioned officer.
His experience and dedication is tremendous. It was such a pleasure to present the scholarship to this young man. He has already experienced extraordinary military success and has a bright future ahead of him. My husband and I enjoyed talking with him over dinner which followed the ceremony.
This year a guest speaker was added to the ceremony. Recent Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Melvin Morris spoke to the audience of young cadets, encouraging them to listen to their leaders. He said even though at such young age they may think they know it all, they don’t. The only way to really learn was to listen, take heed, and when times get difficult on the battlefield, even in everyday life, everything that was taught to them would hold them strong. Listening was the key.
I had the pleasure to talk with Morris after the ceremony when I shared my brother’s (Capt. Crosby) story. He told me how very much he and his comrades counted on the helicopter pilots, for dear life itself during the Vietnam war.
It brings so much satisfaction and comfort too, knowing that the men and women of the Eagle Battalion are part of our country’s defense.
It is always a thrill of patriotism I feel when I am among the Eagle Battalion, especially dressed in their finest, and feeling they have accomplished so much during the year.
Blessings and success to them all, always.