For many students at the College of William and Mary, Veterans Day is a time of reflection on service and sacrifice. For the members of the College’s ROTC program, that service and sacrifice will soon be their own.
When they sign up, ROTC members pledge four years of active duty or six years of reserve duty in the U.S.
Army, as well as dozens of hours each week preparing for that duty.
For many, that commitment shapes their time at the College.
“I really enjoy it because it’s defined a lot of my experience at the College,” Cadet Commander of the
College’s ROTC program Drew Leyes ’10 said. “I’ve made a lot of my close friends through ROTC, and it’s challenged me in so many ways.”
Leyes said he joined ROTC at the College to prepare for a career in the military after the conclusion of his time at the College.
“I wanted to serve my country, and I’d love to be an officer,” Leyes said.
Leyes became cadet commander through a series of academic, leadership and physical tests.
“All the tests put all [the candidates] in a rank, and I had the highest rank,” Leyes said.
As the cadet commander at the College, Leyes monitors many aspects of ROTC life at the College and at Christopher Newport University.
“I oversee training with fellow cadets, manage staff and implement new policies when needed,” Leyes said. “I try to run it and execute it as best as I can. I try to give guidance to the cadets.”
Cadets prepare for military service through routine physical fitness exercise, known as ‘PT.’
A weekly routine involves long-distance runs up to 10 miles, upper body training and group runs that occur two to three times each week. Cadets also go to military science classes to further their training.
“The lab teaches cadets the basics,” Leyes said. “But we also go to regular classes.”
Leyes said that the many obligations faced by ROTC cadets might not appeal to many students at the College, although it is a rewarding experience for those to whom it does.
“It’s a personal decision, and a lot of people do it for different reasons,” Leyes said. “You sign up to do your duty and to serve the country, but there are also scholarships that help a lot of people pay for college.”
According to Leyes, only students who accept scholarship money are required to serve in the military after graduating from the College.
That service begins when ROTC cadets graduate from the College and begin their four- to six-year term in the military. Leyes said the prospect of being deployed comes with joining the program.
“You sign up for that duty,” Leyes said. “You sign up to serve your country. It’s not a choice of whether you want to go. You have to serve the country.”
After graduating from the College in May, Leyes will be commissioned as an armor officer in the Army. His time in the College’s ROTC program will have prepared him for that service.
“I’m incredibly happy with my decision,” Leyes said. “I don’t know what I would have done without ROTC.”
With the day of his own commission into the Army approaching, Leyes said that students at the College should spend Veterans Day paying respects to the country’s servicemen and women.
“People should take the time and reflect on the meaning of the day,” Leyes said. “Just think about the soldiers and their sacrifices, what they’ve paid and what they’ve given to the country.”