BY JOE MARVILLI
A Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in Fresh Meadows is raising money for a unique opportunity to visit one of the most famous battle sites in American history.
Francis Lewis High School’s JROTC, known as The Patriot JROTC, has been invited to march in the 70th Anniversary D-Day Parade in France this June. In order to do so, the program needs to raise $70,000 by May.
According to 1st Sgt. Richard Gogarty, one of the JROTC instructors at Francis Lewis, each state in the country will be sending one junior battalion to Normandy for the D-Day Parade. Someone recommended Francis Lewis to represent New York State and the school was given its invitation around June of 2013. Twenty students are scheduled to go.
“I’m excited. I know the cadets are excited,” he said. “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The JROTC began raising funds for the trip in earnest last September, at the start of the new school year. Through a combination of online donations and fundraising events, the group has raised $40,000 so far. The program’s alumni have also gotten involved. They plan to have a bake sale and have a booth set up during the Northeastern Drill Brigade Competition at Francis Lewis on March 8.
The parade itself will take place on June 6 and will start in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, one of the first Normandy towns to be liberated by the Allied Forces in World War II. The commemoration will feature active and retired military personnel, civic groups and live music ensembles.
For the day of the parade, the cadets will visit multiple D-Day sites, including Pointe Du Hoc and Utah Beach.
During the trip, the Patriot Battalion will also tour the towns of Trouville and Mont Saint-Michel. They will attend the opening ceremony at American Cemetery in Brittany on June 5 as well, with the honor guard from each JROTC participating in the event.
“It’s hands-on history, which is the best way to learn,” Gogarty said. “They’re going to be able to walk through one of the most famous battles of our history.”
Battalion cadets will also be allowed to visit some of France’s most well-known landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees and Arch de Triumph. The Patriot Battalion would leave France on June 10.
The parade would be another highlight in a year full of highlights for Francis Lewis’ JROTC. Last month, it won the New York City Drill Competition. They will compete in the National Academic competition, Northeastern Drill Brigade Competition and the National Drill Competition in Daytona, Florida.
“We’re already the largest battalion in the country. I think that [the trip] enhances the program in its standing, its reputation, as a JROTC,” Gogarty said. “Our opportunities are self-funded. We would love the community to get involved and get behind us.”
If you would like to donate to the JROTC for its France trip, visit http://www.francislewishs.org. There is a box on the lower right-hand corner where contributions can be made through PayPal.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.