ROTC keeps it in the family
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 23:10
At the University of Southern Mississippi, traditions are kept alive and well. From Founder’s Day and tailgating to the painting of the Eagle Walk, Southern Miss upholds traditions for generations of family and fans to enjoy.
USM’s Army ROTC program is no exception to that rule. At USM ROTC, “it is all in the family.” There are currently three family combinations: one father and son and two brother combos.
Five years ago, 2nd Lt. Clyde McArn began his studies at Southern Miss at the age of 33. After years of working to support his family, McArn returned to college after his wife’s graduation from USM. While taking a military history course, McArn found a path to the ROTC program. “It was something I always wanted to do,” McArn said. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country, but for some reason I kept putting it off.” It was at that point that USM history professor and retired Col. Kevin Dougherty laid a foundation for McArn, and he joined. “Seeing those guys in uniform walk around campus that had their chest stuck out and walking tall...I just really wanted to be a part of that,” McArn said.
Now five years later, McArn has the opportunity to share the same experiences with his son, Pfc. Tyler McArn. Despite being at different ranks, McArn’s relationship with his son has grown. “I have three sons, and we all share something we can connect on,” McArn said. “But Tyler and I have our connection on the military side...our relationship has definitely grown.”
Tyler McArn said he has enjoyed experiencing the ROTC program with his father, but it didn’t come without a price.
“Everyone knew my dad, so they all gave me a hard time. They ragged me, but I’m taking it,” McArn said. “It has opened me up to so many opportunities, and I’m proving myself.”
Many ROTC members nationwide don’t have the opportunity to share military experiences with family members like the McArns, but Southern Miss continues to stand apart. There are also two sets of brothers who attend Southern Miss and are in the ROTC. Cadets Trey and Raymond Collier and Kendrick and Jan Lewis are set to graduate from the same program, though at different times.
For the Colliers, it was more of a family tradition to join the Army. Trey Collier, a junior criminal justice major, was on track to enlist immediately after high school, but his father, who has served in the military most of his life, talked him into going through the ROTC program to become an officer. Three years later, his brother followed the same route. Raymond Collier is a freshman and said his family helped him with his decision. “Both my mom’s side and dad’s side has a military background,” Raymond said. “They gave me insight about the army and helped me reach my decision.”
The Lewis brothers based their decision on another factor, however; they joined Southern Miss’s program after already serving in the military. The Lewis’s hail from a large, close-knit family, so being in the ROTC together only made their relationship stronger. “We have a real close family,” Jan said. “The bonds have always been there.” They hope to become officers through the ROTC program, earn their degrees from Southern Miss and become football coaches.
Despite the Army ROTC program having many family combinations, 2nd Lt. Clyde McArn says it goes much deeper than blood ties. He said the program itself is a family.
“We keep up with each other, even after they move on from the program,” McArn said. “We may give each other a hard time while we’re here, but we’re all brothers for the same cause.”
“The family ties for this organization certainly goes beyond the ties of others.”