ROTC instructor Vazquez saluted in final farewell


photo by Chatham Farrell

JROTC Instructor 1st Sgt. Jose Vazquez stands with principal Mary Williams. He received an award for his 18 years of teaching on Nov. 14.

It was junior Lewis Wood’s first day of high school. Nervous and not knowing what high school was like, he walked into 1st Sgt. Jose Vazquez’s classroom, and saw him carrying around his stick, a wand from a window that opens and closes blinds with tape on one end. Then Vazquez hit the desks with his stick to either grab the student’s attention or to wake up a sleeping cadet.

“I was confused,” Wood said. “I thought every teacher had a stick, too.”

For Vazquez’s JROTC I class, there was no sleeping in his class, a thing cadets know well.

In 2000, Vazquez started his teaching career at Lyman High School when the principal, Sam Momary, called him for an interview. The first question that was asked was when he could start teaching.

“I always dreamed to come to high school and teach our fellow students,” Vazquez said.

When the school opened in 2005, Momary transferred here and Vazquez followed, hiring another instructor and starting the program with just 24 cadets.

Throughout his teaching years, many cadets have been impacted by him and have had good memories with Vazquez.

Retiring at the end of this semester, Vazquez made the hard decision to retire for his wife.

“I owe my time to my wife, because I hardly spend time with her,” Vazquez said. “I have to make this decision because it’s for the better of my family.”

Senior Hayden Longo came to JROTC I class, viewing Vazquez as a stern man, but when showed his fun side, Longo had a different perspective of him.

“At last year’s battalion [barbeque], we chased him with an ice bucket and dumped it right on top of it,” Longo said.

After that, those that were involved with dumping ice water on Vazquez were punished with push ups.

For Longo, a valuable lesson that Vazquez taught him was to take on life and move on and to lead and be an example of others.

When senior Kyle Cook walked into JROTC class in his freshman year, he was really confused because he could not understand all of what Vazquez was saying; however, he did see something interesting and fun in the class.

“He is always the perfect balance between goofy and fun and serious and actually getting stuff done,” Cook said.

Saddened by Vazquez leaving, Cook doubts that anyone who replaces him will ever live up to his legacy.

Always seeing him running the track at 6 a.m., junior Alex Noren learned how to be a better leader from Vazquez telling his classes to stay fit. When Noren first moved to Florida, Vazquez was the only father figure that he could look up to.

“He is the best person that I’ve ever met and the best teacher,” Noren said.

Noren remembers during the Military Ball how Vazquez would do the Dougie and have fun with the other cadets. During class, Vazquez would get passionate about a specific topic, but the way he spoke about it would make the cadets chuckle because they could understand most of what he said, but not everything.

Senior Gavin Lagrange recalls in his freshman year how Vazquez called the sandhill cranes ‘alligators’. Many can recall Vazquez going outside and throwing rocks at the ‘alligators’ to go away.

Wood also remembers when they were outside for physical training, Vazquez tried to jump and catch the sandhill cranes, then calling them ‘kangaroos.’

From funny moments to serious moments, all the cadets wish him a happy retirement. Through his career, Vazquez always worked to impact his students, which he definitely did.

“I want every student to be successful in life,” Vazquez said. “I’m here to make sure that every student that I touch, can do the right thing.”