TOMBSTONE — The Tombstone High School JROTC program was presented with an award for its years of community service Friday by Tom Hessler, president of the Joint Service Clubs of Greater Sierra Vista.

Cadet Lt. Col. Keenan Gross, a THS senior who serves as commander of the Yellowjacket Battalion, along with THS JROTC Senior Army Instructor Tom Gross (no relation to Keenan Gross) received the 2020 Organization-of-the-Year award on behalf of the battalion.

“The purpose of our Organization-of-the-Year program is to annually recognize an organization that supports the greater Sierra Vista area, especially the programs and fundraising activities of our 60-plus member clubs,” Hessler said. “Together, our member clubs and Organization-of-the-Year recipients have enhanced the quality of life of this great community.”

Cadets of Tombstone High School’s JROTC program — now in its 10th year — have participated in numerous community service projects.

“This award is presented in recognition of all the cadets who have been through our JROTC program,” said Tom Gross. “They’ve all worked hard on a wide range of community service projects and are absolutely deserving of this honor.”

As the battalion commander, Cadet Keenan Gross said he speaks for the entire JROTC when he says “he’s honored to receive such an award.”

“We never force cadets to participate in community service projects, which is crucial, because they voluntarily offer their help,” he said. “Their willingness to do community service work demonstrates loyalty to the community, respect for programs and individuals around us, selfless service and integrity because they are doing what’s right. These represent four of our seven values.

“I cannot stress how greatly the program appreciates this award. We will continue to improve and help our community to the best of our ability.”

The cadets assist with such projects as regular highway clean-up, they provide car-wash labor for different nonprofit organizations, support numerous parades throughout Cochise County through a mounted color guard presence, perform set-up and tear-down assistance for events and help veterans move and pitch in on home improvements, to name a few of the efforts.

“We recently constructed a privacy fence for an elderly veteran who wanted to convert his chain-link fence into a fence that would provide more privacy,” Tom Gross said.

“We’re planning a landscaping project at a group home in Huachuca City soon, then we’ll be going to Bisbee to help with landscaping for a senior center, We’re going to give new life to the senior center.”

The JROTC recently purchased a garage, which the cadets are assembling near their building on the THS campus.

“All construction is being done by the JROTC cadets,” Keenan Gross said. “We started assembling the garage last week and we’re about 60 percent done. We got the mainframe done and the walls are attached. Our program paid for everything, with no cost to the school district.”

The garage will be used to house two vehicles that are used by the school district.

There are 102 cadets enrolled in Tombstone’s JROTC, which represents about 25 percent of the student body.

“We have a great group of cadets who are willing to help with these different projects, Tom Gross said. “With COVID, it’s sometimes a little difficult to find community service opportunities, but we are constantly looking for ways for the cadets to give back to the communities that support us.

“We, and that includes Tombstone JROTC Army Instructor Dan Kilpatrick, the cadets and myself, would like to express sincere appreciation to the Joint Service Clubs for recognizing our organization and all those who have ever been a part of it with this great honor.”