By AMBER POMPA
Tears welling up in the eyes of a proud father tell more of William Francey’s success than words ever could.
Francey, a senior at Greenville High School, received word Jan. 19 that he had been accepted into the United States Marine Corps, continuing a tradition of military service that has been long standing in his family.
However, the future wasn’t always so clear to Francey, nor was his temperament so mild. Francey did have thoughts of joining the military in his younger years, but as a last resort. That all changed when he joined the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at GHS in 2009, after moving in with his father, Chuck Francey, and stepmom, Renee.
Before moving in with Chuck and Renee, and prior to his joining the NJROTC, Francey had been in and out of ISS (In School Suspension) and spent a good deal of time in GAEP (Greenville Alternative Education Placement).
“I spent 35 days in GAEP the beginning of my seventh grade year for bringing a knife to school in sixth grade,” said Francey. “I was constantly fighting with people and getting into trouble. Just being a hard-head, I guess, and trying to follow everyone else.”
According to Francey, after joining the NJROTC program at GHS his instructors, Senior Naval Science Instructor Lt. Cmdr. James Reed and Naval Science Instructor Master Sgt. Clifford Turner, added moral guidance to his life, in addition to some much needed discipline.
“I came to realize that the military was something that I was interested in,” said Francey, who is this year serving as Battalion Commander of the GHS NJROTC. “So since the beginning I’ve been trying to improve myself in a military manner so I can be ready for it.”
Time management and leadership skills, along with citizenship, are just a few of the things the program taught Francey.
“It really opened my eyes to how I used to be ... how hardheaded I was and now I just sit back and watch all these other kids fighting and getting into trouble and think, wow, I used to be like that,” said Francey. “I have such a sense of pride when I walk through the school now because I know I’m set apart from the other students.”
The NJROTC is a program that promotes patriotism, develops informed and responsible citizens and develops leadership potential and a high degree of personal honor, self reliance and individual discipline.
The NJROTC curriculum emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, as well maritime heritage, the significance of sea power and naval topics such as the fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation and meteorology. Classroom instruction is augmented throughout the year by community service activities, drill competition, field meets, flights, visits to naval activities, marksmanship training, and other military training.
Basically it keeps those participating in the program too busy to get into trouble, though most that join the program wouldn’t risk being expelled from the NJROTC due to such things as behavioral issues or grades. The NJROTC may not be an athletic program, but it holds with the “No Pass, No Play” rule.
“In the last three years we’ve done well over 150 volunteer events from working football games at the high school on Friday nights to the VEX World Championship tournament in Dallas, which we worked last year,” he said. “This is in addition to the competitions we do and the other things we take on, like placing flags on the graves of veterans during Veterans Day.”
In fact, the NJROTC will be competing next month at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi. If they take first or second place at the competition, then the group will get the chance to compete at the Area 10 State Championships at Texas A&M University at College Station.
Chuck simply couldn’t be prouder of his son, of the turnaround he’s made and the man he’s grown to be.
“After seeing what he was like after his mom and I went through a divorce and the trouble he got into I was so afraid he’d come home one day in a body bag or end up in jail,” said Chuck as tears filled his eyes. “I think the NJROTC is one of the best things that happened to him. I’m very proud of him and of the school for bringing this program to our kids. To know where he was and to see where he is now ... it humbles my heart. I’m very proud of the man I see before me.”
“William is an extraordinary young man,” said Renee of her stepson. “He’s always been the kid that needs and craves discipline, which is where this program is perfect for him. He eats, sleeps and breaths NJROTC. I thank God for him and the lessons he’s taught me in the eight years he’s been my son.”
Francey is scheduled to ship out Aug. 13 at the latest and will serve as an air traffic control navigational aids technician.
“I’m nervous, but I also know that the NJROTC has prepared me well for this, what with the JRob Mini-boot camp, which was five days of pure fun, and Leadership Training Academy,” said Francey who was awarded the American Legion Military Excellence Medal in 2011, which will transfer over to his active duty uniform. “In fact, I’ll be going in as a private first class when I enter boot camp because of the three years I’ve spent in NJROTC. It’s a good feeling, knowing the hard work I’ve put in these last few years will show upon entering the military.”