"We're proud of our community, of our cadets, of our instructors and all of our honored guests," said Ben Polston, ESSRA president, who presented students with their scholarship checks.
Cadets of the year for Rockdale County were Clinton Werner of Heritage High School, Rachel B. Facer of Salem High School and Greg North of Rockdale County High School. Werner earned a first place $250 scholarship from the ESSRA for his essay and North tied for a third place $100 scholarship.
JROTC commanders (instructors) select students to be honored as cadets of the year and accompanied them to the ceremony Thursday.
"You have vivid memories of who your instructors were - they stay with you," Polston said of his days as a cadet.
Major Donald B. Hanks commands the JROTC program at Heritage, MsSgt. Robert Crenshaw at Salem and CWO3 Michael H. Carlisle at Rockdale County.
SGIG Leonard Buffington and Georgia Tech Marine Corp ROTC Commander Lt. Ronald Peterson presented cadets with a letter of commendation from Secretary of State Karen Handel as well as a Georgia flag that flew over the state capitol.
Roger Wise Jr., ambassador for the Yaarab Shriners of North Georgia, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Grand Masonic Lodge of Georgia, presented cadets with a letter of commendation from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Lt. General David Poythress attended the ceremony and gave the cadets their Scottish Rite awards and spoke to the assembled crowd. Lt. Col Bernard Blackwell (Ret.) assisted Poythress in handing out the awards.
"I'm pleased to tell you I began my military career right wear you are," Poythress said to the cadets. "I put my uniform on when I was 15 and didn't take it off for a long time."
He said the military and ROTC programs in Georgia and across the country offer exceptional scholarships and benefits to students who agree to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
"You will never regret your decision," Poythress said of a decision to enlist.
He said all soldiers are heroes because they possess a desire to preserve safety and uphold American values.
"Our way of life is based on trust - our life is based on confidence," Poythress said. "That's what defines us as Americans.