The Golden Apple Goes to SMSgt Gilbert Garcia

Published: Nov. 10, 2016 at 11:06 AM CST
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Most students only learn about the Military in their history classes. This week's Golden Apple Award winner prepares inspires the lessons of military service in his students from his own experience.

"It's so different. It's not what you expected, but it's so much better," Sydney Overby, a freshman student, said.

This year, 135 students are taking on Rutherford High School's JROTC program They learn from men who dedicated themselves to lives of service, including SMSgt. Gilbert Garcia.

"I've been wearing a uniform for what's that, 40 years"? he said.

"Sergeant is the best leader that I know out of just about anyone," Cadet Maj. Christian Brown said. "He's a great role model. He's a great teacher. He is by far my favorite."

After 26 years of active duty, Gilbert switched to teaching a new group.

"I had to adapt considerably, because I was teaching senior NCO's, and now I'm teaching teenagers," he said.

"They grow a lot, because they get experience as being a follower first, and then becoming a leader, because this program here is actually managed by and led by the cadets," Gilbert added.

Gilbert's leadership works as a catalyst for students, including Brown.

"I was messing up all the time," Brown said. "I was making bad grades. Ever since I joined ROTC, everything just improved, grades, discipline, everything."

He's second in command out of the students.

"There are times I tell my self, why am I doing this? But I keep on going," Gilbert said.

"We look up to him because he loves doing it. He's such a good role model," Overby added.

Not every student will complete the program or go on to join the military, but the lessons they pick up from volunteering, being active, and learning from the best will stick with them, what ever path they take.

"We have some core values in the Air Force, and one of them is others before self, which means you help other people before you help yourself," Gilbert said. "So getting involved in the community takes care of that core value. It does a lot. As a matter of fact, a lot of kids, they volunteer for stuff, and they actually have fun doing it."

If you'd like to nominate a teacher for the Golden Apple Award, click the "Golden Apple" tab here on our website.