West Stanly student named VFW Cadet of the Year

A cadet with the JROTC at West Stanly High School has had a busy month.
James Whitley, a rising junior, was recently named the JROTC Cadet of the Year for North Carolina.
WSHS JROTC Chief Ritchie Stiller submitted an application for the Local VFW Cadet of the Year for Whitley to the James Lowder VFW Post 6183 in Norwood.
Stiller said he submitted Whitley for consideration due to the work he had done to improve the Color Guard teams.
Norwood VFW gathered letters of recommendation and sent them for consideration at the state level. Out of 129 district packages submitted, Whitley was awarded first place.
He and his family went to the VFW state meeting in Greensboro to receive the state award on June 7.
“The VFW state annual convention was an outstanding event, it was an honor to be among so many veterans that have given so much to our country,” Carrie Whitley, James’ mother said.
“We are just extremely thankful for this honor and the amazing opportunity that has been provided,” Stiller added.
James Whitley considers the Color Guard “one of our most important things.” The team is used at parades, funerals, graduations and VFW award ceremonies, he said. As the leader of the Color Guard, he has to plan ahead, talk to customers and know full details before entering an event.
As if winning the state honor was not enough, Whitley followed it up by attending his first JROTC Cadet Leadership Course at Fayetteville State University.
The camp, he said, teaches leadership, teamwork and bonding skills. It has physical activities and academics.
Whitley said he left the camp more disciplined, with a greater attention to detail.
“My biggest takeaway from coming back home, I pay attention to a lot more minor details,” Whitley said. “Whenever I do something that is challenging to me, I tell myself to push harder. … The barrier you make you can break and go beyond.”
Whitley says he likes to stay busy, and he does so being active at Love’s Grove Church in Stanfield, as a lifeguard at West Stanly Community Pool, by refereeing soccer and working part-time at Food Lion in Oakboro.
Whitley joined the JROTC two years ago.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It was just something unique. I didn’t have anyone I knew who was in it so it just caught my eye — and I fell in love with it,” he said.

B.J. Drye is general manager/editor of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123.