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Guzman now leading East Union High JROTC
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East Union JROTC Commander Kevin Holeman presides over the annual Changing of the Command event. Outgoing cadet Michaela Ramos turned over the top spot to Juan Guzman and his Sgt. Major Hanako Jones. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

Michaela Ramos bid her farewells Thursday to her time as commander of the Lancers Battalion.

She wondered what her life would have been like without the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp at East Union High – more popular or a better athlete?

As it turned out, Ramos was that and much more.

Her last duty as commander was the annual Change of Command ceremony held at Dalben Center.

According to advisor Karl Knutsen, JROTC was offered the indoor comforts rather than having cadets, family and special guests deal with the hot afternoon conditions outdoors by opting for the later start time.

Ramos formally turned the command over to 2nd Lt. Juan Guzman.

“I’m proud of the opportunity,” he said. “I look forward to challenges we’ll face.”

Several seniors had some parting words on their JROTC experience prior to the flag retirement ceremony that followed, including Adam Salvador Hernandez, Ray Barber and Taylor Gray.

“This program will do what you want do what you want it to do,” Hernandez said. “It worked for me – it’ll work for you.”

Barber was in the program for three years. He came in as a sophomore, hoping that JROTC will help prepare him for his hope of joining the military.

“My goal was to be one of the highest ranking and most decorated cadets,” said Barber, who accomplished that and more.

Unfortunately, his hope for joining the military is not in the cards due to an existing medical condition.

Gray likened her time with JROTC as a family. “We had each others backs – united we were strong,” she said.

Among the award winners were:

• Order of the Daedalians Award, Justin Bueno.

• Celebrate Freedom Foundation, Seaira White.

• American Legion, Steven Gomez.

• National Sojourners, Josh Bennett.

• Scottish Rites, Brian Reisbeck.

• Daughters of the American Revolution, Crystal Rodriguez.

• Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Taylor Gray.

• Daughters of the American Colonists, Jessica Valenzuela.

• Superior Cadets, Alyssa Arnaud, Aiko Jones, Steven Gomez.

• Veterans of Foreign War, Juan Guzman (male), Hanako Jones (female).

In addition, the retirement of Old Glory once again meant taking a tattered U.S. flag and separating the stars from the stripes.

“It’s no longer a flag but two pieces of fabric ready to be properly set in a fire,” said Barber.