In an emotional and touching ceremony, Strawberry Crest High School (SCHS) Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp (JROTC) Charger Battalion recently held a tribute for the late Damiyan Garcia, a JROTC Cadet who passed away suddenly from brain cancer on June 8, 2017. Damiyan was a ninth-grade student at SCHS who made a tremendous impact on his family, school and community. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of Sergeant at his funeral service. Garcia was profiled in a Newsdesk article last spring when he was promoted to Corporal while fighting for his life against cancer. Read the story here: Damiyan Garcia shows courage while battling cancer.
According to Battalion Personnel Officer, Cadet Sergeant First Class Michelle Garcia, who served as the narrator for the ceremony, "Cadet Sergeant Damiyan Garcia is an inspiration for us all."
The Garcia Family was kind enough to bring in many of Damiyan's personal effects and his actual JROTC Uniform which was on display throughout the ceremony.
The National Colors were presented by a 6-person Honor Guard which consisted of the National Flag, Florida State Flag, U.S. Army Flag and JROTC Charger Battalion Flag. Cadet Sergeant Amber Hatton provided a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
A special musical selection was performed by Cadet Sergeant First Class Dawn "Nikki" Riley. The title of the selection was Trail of Angels, a Chinese lullaby written by Chen Yue. Cadet Riley played the musical piece on the flute for those in attendance.
Representatives from the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) were present to recognize Cadet Damiyan Garcia. Retired US Army Command Sergeant Major John Hillery spoke of Damiyan with honor and pride. "Cadet Garcia was a brave courageous young man who possessed the leadership qualities of the Purple Heart."
Sergeant Adam Gunn, the Battalion's Project Officer said,"We have formed a very close relationship with MOPH, Lakeland Chapter 535."
A commemorative wreath adorned with red roses was unveiled by Charger Battalion Commander Cadet Major Arely Garcia and Command Sergeant Major Noel Chavez. The wreath was then positioned at a plant garden in the courtyard where a semi-permanent marker will be placed for Cadet Garcia. Cadets took turns guarding the wreath during the ceremony.
Photos from the ceremony can be found in the Flickr album below, including those of JROTC Cadet Sergeant First Class Dawn “Nikki” Riley performing the Chinese Lullaby, Trails of an Angel on her flute with Cadet Garcia’s actual uniform on display behind her; Cadet Sergeant Amber Hatton singing the National Anthem to open the ceremony, and First Sergeant LaShawn Lyas and Lieutenant Colonel John Ingraham posing with members of the MOPH, Lakeland Chapter 535 include Gerard Abbett, John Hillery and Commander Stewart Hilbmann.
The SCHS community and JROTC Charger Batallion, Cadet Garcia's family, and Hillsborough County Public Schools lost a wonderful young man with Damiyan's passing, but his memory and his impact will not soon be forgotten. Cadet Sergeant Damiyan Garcia recited the words below of the JROTC Cadet Creed when he joined the Charger Batallion. Today they remind us of all that he stood for.
"I am an Army Junior ROTC Cadet. I will always conduct myself to bring credit to my family, country, school and the Corps of Cadets. I am loyal and patriotic. I am the future of the United States of America. I do not lie, cheat or steal and will always be accountable for my actions and deeds. I will always practice good citizenship and patriotism. I will work hard to improve my mind and strengthen my body. I will seek the mantel of leadership and stand prepared to uphold the Constitution and the American way of life. May God grant me the strength to always live by this creed."