Texas and Oklahoma AFJROTC units march in Inaugural Parade

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Two Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps units were selected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to march in the 56th Inaugural Parade on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Klein Collins High School AFJROTC from Texas and Union High School AFJROTC from Oklahoma were two of more than 90 groups chosen out of a record 1,382 organizations that submitted applications to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

"I think that our team's ethnic and racial diversity may have had a lot of influence with the selection committee," said retired Col. Daniel Crum, senior aerospace science instructor for Klein Collins AFJROTC. "The parade's lineup suggests a very diverse theme."

Following the swearing in of President Barack Obama, the nearly two-mile-long parade route began at the Capitol, continued down Pennsylvania Avenue and ended at the White House.

Upon hearing of their selection, the two units were required to fund the uniform, travel, lodging and meal expenses for the trip.

"In less than two weeks, over $30,000 in pledges and contributions were received," said retired Lt. Col. Ron McCool, senior aerospace science instructor for Union AFJROTC, on the unit's website. "That is a monumental task. Thanks [to] all the individuals, corporations, foundations, clubs and others who have made it possible for 85 Union students to be a part of American history."

One woman contributed $25,000 to help get the 36 Texas cadets to Washington, D.C., Colonel Crum said.

In addition to generating funds for the trip, the units prepared around the clock for the historic parade.

"We have two drills, an armed and unarmed, that we combined into one marching unit for the parade," he said. "We had them march extended distances on a route that would approximated what they covered on Pennsylvania Avenue."

Once there, the units planned to utilize the numerous educational opportunities in the nation's capital.

The Union High School cadets were also present at the reception for Oklahomans held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian on Sunday evening, Colonel McCool said.

"In addition to enjoying the thrill of marching in a parade with 99 other groups from around the country, [the cadets] are interested in seeing the museums, national parks, monuments and government centers," Colonel Crum said.

Although the units have participated in numerous drill events around the nation, the parade itself provided the cadets an educational opportunity of a lifetime.

"We are pleased to know we were part of a very historic moment in American history, but we also know that we represented AFJROTC cadets all over the world," he shared. "It's a thrill for us to be part of this year's inauguration and we are humbled by the honor."