Youth Learn Politics and Marine Corps Discipline
By Sgt. Chanin Nuntavong
| | July 03, 2001
MORRISVILLE, N.Y. --
"Sir, yes, sir!" These are the words you might hear at Marine Corps boot camp, but you would never expect to hear them echo across the campus of the State University of New York Agricultural and Technical College here. But for six days in June that's exactly what happened as more than 1,100 male high school juniors participated in the 2001 American Legion Boys' State of New York. In addition to making themselves heard, Boys' State citizens participated in the operation of their own government while learning drill and physical training taught by Marines.
"Citizens are here to learn about politics, but Marines play an important role in their development as leaders," said Sgt. Erik D. Battaglia, a volunteer Marine instructor and administrative clerk at Recruiting Station Buffalo. "We were responsible for the citizens movement to and from events, physical training, and teaching them about discipline and teamwork through drill."
10 Marines at this years Boys' State were responsible for more than 100 citizens each.
According to Staff Sgt. William J. Snyder, a volunteer Marine instructor and Officer Selection Assistant at the Officer Selection Office in Syracuse, the Marines were there to educate and motivate the citizens.
"We motivate the citizens mentally and physically," he said. "They are challenged to learn things very quickly. It's our job to keep them interested and ensure that they remember the things they need to accomplish."
According to David Szalda of Kings Park High School, Kings Park, N.Y., the Marines taught him valuable lessons that he can use during his upcoming football season.
"The Marines showed me that with good teamwork, motivation and honor, a team can overcome any obstacle," he said.
Ryan Miller of Gowanda Central High School, Gowanda, N.Y., looks forward to passing the principles he learned to his Boy Scout Troop.
"I hope to be able to pass the principles of self-respect, discipline and teamwork to my troop," he said. "They need to realize that life could be lived better when they work with others positively and conduct themselves in a structured manner."
The Boys' State political program included political organizations, penal codes, State Party Conventions and elective offices.
The most interesting part of Boys' State, according to Sgt. Eduardo Espinal, a volunteer Marine instructor and supply clerk from 1st Marine Corps District, was watching his citizens become involved in politics and the United States government.
"I was amazed to see the amount of interest there was for politics," he said. "Most of them know more about the government than I do and I am a United States Marine."
Political activities for the citizens included: assemblies with guest speakers from Governor George E. Pataki and State Senator Nancy L. Hoffman to City Mayors; County Family Court Judges and District Attorneys; political rallies; city, county and state nominations, and elections; as well as legislative sessions.
When the citizens are not working with the political process or practicing drill, they are involved with other activities that included: physical training (citizen sports from a cross-country race to softball, basketball, volleyball, and calisthenics and running with Marines); flag raising and lowering ceremonies; Cafeteria and State Police; band; a daily newspaper and television show reporting; and the production of a digital yearbook.
Sergeant Espinal says that there are many skills that a citizen will take back to his community, but the most important thing that they will leave with is discipline.
"Boys' State citizens leave more responsible Americans," he said. "The hardest person to discipline is yourself. All the citizens leave here more disciplined and more respectful than when they first arrived."
The American Legion sponsors and screens each citizen at Boys' State. Citizens must be at least 15 years old at the time of application, have completed their junior year of high school in the upper 50 percent of their class, intend to return to school in the fall as seniors to complete their high school education, be residents of New York State or reside in an adjoining state, but attend school in New York State.
Boys' State is held in 49 U.S. States. For more information on the American Legion Boys' State contact your local American Legion or visit their web site at http://www.legion.org/bstate.htm.