Nearly 1,200 promising young men gathered at State University of New York in Morrisville, June 23-29, for the 76th American Legion Boys State of New York to learn about the basics of American governance and civic responsibility.
The weeklong event brought incoming seniors from New York counties together to understand the building blocks of American society, focusing on the electoral process, civil service and physical fitness. And for the past several years, members of the 1st Marine Corps District have volunteered their time to assist in promoting the common values of honor, courage and commitment through lessons in basic drill and ceremony, physical fitness and teamwork.
Cpl. Richard Marko III, a recruiter at Recruiting Substation Utica and Recruiting Station Albany, was a New York Boys State delegate in 2008. His experience as a delegate caused him to reconsider his future as he headed into his senior year at West Canada Valley High School in Newport, N.Y.
Marko was slated to attend college with an ROTC scholarship after graduating high school in 2009. After a week at New York Boys State learning what the Marine Corps does and how it operates, Marko decided to enlist in the Corps as a reserve aviation administration specialist. He forewent his collegiate pursuits and a commission in the Army.
"Before the weeklong adventure at Boys State in 2008, I had no idea what a Marine was or what they were like," Marko said. "Having a weeklong experience with the Marines set a standard for me that the Army couldn't match."
Marko's experience as a former Boys State citizen, and now a Marine, helped him identify his role as 2013 Boys State mentor. He focused on being a positive role model to his group of young men by instilling the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment, in hopes of having a positive impact on their futures after high school.
"It was a huge honor to go back (to Boys State) as a Marine to have the chance to influence the lives of these young men was a huge honor for me," he said.
Meanwhile, Capt. Jordan Then, a Reserve Support Officer for Recruiting Station Buffalo, has participated in New York Boys State for the past two years and believes the values of Boys State and the Marine Corps are naturally aligned.
"The Legion gets a group of dedicated Marines who assist in the organization and movement of the boys, as well as provides expert instruction in physical fitness," Then said. "Additionally, the boys get a group of excellent role models who demonstrate the Marine Corps core values of honor, courage and commitment, as well as provide them with valuable insight into the Marine Corps and the military as a whole."
Marko said some delegates come in not knowing what the Marines are as an organization, only that they are professionals and "modern day Spartans."
"Boys State allows them to see the difference in the military services. I had countless boys telling me they want to be Marines because of this week, through NROTC or the Naval Academy or through enlistment," Marko said. "Without me telling them or suggesting it, by the end of the week, they were calling Marines the best."