July 2, 2013 -- STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK MORRISVILLE, N.Y. -- The annual American Legion Boy’s State of New York gathers around 1,200 promising young men each year at the State University of New York, Morrisville, to learn about the basics of American governance and civic responsibility.
Each year, Marines from across New York -all members of the 1st Marine Corps District- volunteer 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.
The weeklong event brings together incoming seniors from each county in New York State, with the goal of solidifying participant’s understanding of the building blocks of American society, with a focus on the electoral process, civil service, and physical fitness.
Corporal Richard Marko III, a recruiter at Recruiting Substation Utica, Recruiting Station Albany, was a Boy’s State participant in 2008 between his junior and senior years of high school. His experience as a Boy’s State alum caused him to reconsider his future heading into his senior year at West Canada Valley High School in Newport, N.Y
“I was sent [to Boy’s State] through a panel of American Legion members who asked different questions about service and country, as well as being in the top percentage of my grade,” Marko said.
Marko was slated to attend college with an ROTC Scholarship after graduating high school in 2009. After a week at Boy’s State learning what the Marine Corps does and how it operates, Marko decided to enlist in the Corps as a reserve aviation administration specialist forgoing his collegiate pursuits and a commissioning in the Army.
“Before the weeklong adventure at Boy’s State in 2008 I had no idea what a Marine was or what they were like,” he said. “Having a weeklong experience with the Marines set a standard for me that the Army couldn’t match.”
His experience as a Boy’s State citizen formed how he viewed his role as a Marine supporting Boy’s State. Marko focused on mentoring, encouraging and providing a positive role model for his group of boys and said he hopes his group had a positive impact on their futures after high school.
“It was a huge honor to go back [to Boy’s State] as a Marine. Going [as a boy] in 2008, I knew nothing about Marines except seeing them at my school,” said Marko. “To have the chance to influence the lives of these young men was a huge honor for me.”
Capt. Jordan Then, the Reserve Support Officer for RS Buffalo, has taken part in Boy’s State for two years as the officer-in-charge, and believes the values of Boy’s 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 providing expert instruction in physical fitness,” said Then, a native of Buffalo. “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.”
According to Marko, some boys come in not knowing what the Marines are as an organization, only that they are professionals and “modern day Spartans.” Boy’s State, he said, 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,” said Marko. “Without me telling them or suggesting it, by the end of the week, they were calling Marines the best.”