BY MELANIE WADE –
Mena High School Senior, Carson Cannon, was among 97 high school students from across the nation welcomed by the Marine Corps Recruiting Command at the inaugural Battles Won Academy, in Washington D.C., July 14-16, 2017. Cannon was accompanied by his high school teacher, Julie Gordon, who he selected to be his mentor during the event.
The academy is part of the Marine Corps’ Semper Fidelis All-American Program, which recognizes young men and women who excel in athletics, but have also shown themselves to be leaders in the classroom and in their hometowns. “You’re not just athletes and scholars with lots of extracurricular activities – you are exemplars of the communities from which you come from,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, speaking to the All-Americans and their mentors during the opening ceremony of the Battles Won Academy. “We consider you the future leadership of America.”
Gordon said, “This is quite an honor for Carson to be chosen, for me to be his mentor, and for Mena High School. MHS will receive a championship banner to commemorate his completion of this program, which will be displayed at the school.”
Cannon was thankful for the experience and for Ms. Gordon to be there as well. “It was an honor to be nominated, and selected for the Battles Won Academy. It was such an amazing experience that I was able to share with Mrs. Gordon, who has been one of my mentors through school, FCA [Fellowship of Christian Athletes], and Student Council. I would like to thank the Marines and all of those who serve and have served, protecting our nation’s core values.”
For the past five years, the Marine Corps has hosted the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, an exhibition game between the top high school football players in the country. During Marine Week 2016, Kennedy announced that the All-American program would evolve from a football-specific program to become more inclusive of athletes from other varsity sports, including both men and women.
In order to be nominated as a Semper Fidelis All-American, athletes had to be at least a high school junior, have a 3.5 GPA or higher, actively serve their community, and participate in a varsity team sport.
The All-Americans attending were divided into 16 teams and each was assigned a Marine mentor. The seminar included several speaking engagements by Baseball Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr.; world champion wrestler, Adeline Gray; NFL running back, Christian McCaffrey; and Marine Corps veteran and author, Rye Barcott.
Also during his trip, Cannon traveled to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, had a fitness challenge at the official Under Armour Headquarters, helped with a community service project in Baltimore, Maryland, and participated in a scavenger hunt on the National Mall. Throughout the course of the academy, the teams had breakout sessions with their Marine mentors, in which they discussed topics such as overcoming adversity and leading their peers.
A highlight of the event came at the final banquet, which was hosted by ESPN personality Sage Steele and General Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented leadership awards to two of the athletes in attendance, Juvia Davis and LaMarcus Strickland.