Bryce Harting started to get involved with the U.S. Air Force R.O.T.C. during his sophomore year at O’Fallon Township High School.
“I really didn't know what it was about,” said Harting, who will graduate Saturday from high school.
“But I thought it was something that I could get into.”
Harting also thought R.O.T.C. would offer him something “cool” to do because it involved the military.
“I thought why not,” he said.
Harting's family is predominantly military. His grandpa, John Minford, served with the U.S. Army. His stepdad, John Minford Jr., is retired from the Army as well. His mother, Teresa Minford is retired from the U.S. Air Force, where she served 26 years. His dad, Brent Harting, is still active in the Air Force. Meanwhile, his stepmom, Gina Harting was involved in the U.S. Coast Guard and later the Air Force.
Harting is equally impressed with the Air Force R.O.T. C. program.
“The people in it are amazing,” he said. “And the instructors are great.
“...I thought this is something I might get into after high school."
Harting plans to do just that and more.
This fall, he plans to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he plans to join the R.O.T.C.
After college, Harting plans to join the U.S. Air Force.
“While the Army has a number of jobs which are interesting, I am more comfortable with the Air Force,” he said.
Brock Bundy was introduced to the R.O.T.C. program through his father, Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Bundy.
While attending middle school in Anchorage, Alasksa, Jeffery Bundy was a teacher and instructor. During drill, he also was an evaluator.
“And that got me hooked on drill,” Bundy said.
Bundy joined the R.O.T.C. during his freshman year. Like Harting, Bundy said he fell in love with the program.
After high school, Bundy said he plans to attend college and join the Air Force.
“I always have wanted to fly airplanes,” he said.
Harting was born in Germany on a U.S. Air Force Base in Bittenburg, Germany. He has also lived in Dayton, Ohio. But he has lived in O'Fallon for the past 10 years.
Bundy, on the other hand, has lived in Alaska twice, Arkansas, Delaware and Germany. He soon will be moving back to Germany, where he plans to finish high school.
Moving back to Germany will be quite a big adjustment for Bundy.
“I do not speak a lick of German,” he said. “I took Spanish here. I never thought about taking German.”
But Harting and Bundy enjoy the structure and discipline taught by by the R.O.T.C. program.
There is also comradery, which members share, Harting said.
“I think everybody should at least try it,” he said.
Harting was recently presented with the national American Legion Military Excellence Award for general military excellence.
“This award means the world to me,” he said.
Harting said he never consdiered himself a leader until he got involved with R.O.T.C. where he was put in various leadership positions where he excelled.
“I never really saw myself as a leader,” he said. “I always try to be more of a friend to people.”
Bundy said he never realized the depth of the R.O.T.C. program.
“You get to make friends and join teams,” he said.
Bundy, however, feels sad that he is leaving now as he's about to start his junior year.
“But I had no choice,” he said.
Bundy said he plans to continue with his R.O.T.C. career while he lives in Germany.
He says he hopes to become a leader like Harting, who he described as being “a phenominal leader.”
“In drill team, he is so good," Bundy said. “He makes sure that everyone below has all of the things they need in order to get their task completed.”
Bundy and Harting said they are drawn to the military because of its brotherhood. “Everybody is united under one thing: to protect and serve our country,” Harting said.
They also take pride seeing the American flag fly today.
“The military is history,” Harting added. “Nothing against the other professions out there like police, teacher, firefighter, I always have seen myself as being a member of the military and something I always wanted to do.”
Bundy said he looks forward to help protecting the rights and freedoms, which many people take for granted living here .
“That motivates me,” he said.
Bundy and Harting are “humbled” everytime they see the American flag.
“The flag symbolizes all of the sacrafices that servicemen have given their lives for throughout the history of America,” he said.
“Throughout the ages, we have had men and women who are always willing to step up and do something our country.”