Connor Hamilton is one of the advanced or senior members of the Young Marines in Arlington for the annual national Young Marines Symposium.
“The national symposium provides an outlet for the ideas of those Young Marines who have earned the right to call themselves the leaders of our organization,” said YM Sgt. Major Dakota Richter, who is the national Young Marine of the Year.
“These Young Marines have proven themselves to perform at the highest levels, and through this symposium, they have the right and responsibility to represent the voices and welfare of over 10,000 of their fellow members.”
Hamilton joined the Young Marines at age 9. Since then, he has risen to the rank of master sergeant and serves as first sergeant of the Southeast Tennessee Area Young Marines. He is also the Bradley Central High School Junior ROTC battalion commander for the current school year. He is the son of Frank and Kelly Hamilton.
He earned the right and privilege to attend the symposium as a top 10 graduate of the National Advanced Leadership School in Norfolk, Va., in June.
The annual symposium originated during a trip to South Korea in September 2000 to commemorate the landing at Inchon. The Young Marines were the invited guests of the Republic of Korea Marines and Korea Marine Scouts, a youth organization similar to the Young Marines.
National executive director and chief executive officer Mike Kessler gathered the 15 Young Marines one afternoon during a period of down time. They began talking about the program and how to make it better.
“They came up with some great ideas such as a mascot and a ship's store,” Kessler said.
“It occurred to me that this kind of exchange was necessary in giving program ownership to the Young Marines. We do this for the very reason that it gives the Young Marines a say in how we can continue to make our program better by implementing their ideas.”
Today, the format is two days of brainstorming. At the close of the symposium, participants formally present their ideas to national headquarters staff. Topics include drug demand reduction education, training requirements and national guidebooks, marketing locally and on a national level, how to engage and mentor junior Young Marines, fundraising and community service.
Richter belongs to the Northern Kentucky Young Marines. Also attending are the five division winners of the Young Marines of the Year, the top 10 graduates from Young Marines Advanced Leadership School and two invited Young Marines.
Those attending the symposium are Dakota Richter, Crestview Hills, Ky., Northern Kentucky Young Marines; Pierce Gilman, Candia, N.H., Boston Young Marines; Austin Cobb, Cary, N.C., Capital City Young Marines; Shana Perez, Waco, Texas, Heart of Texas Young Marines; Corin McKee, Plainfield, Ind., Central Indiana Young Marines; and Ian Search, Sweet Home, Ore., Linn/Benton Young Marines.
The top 10 graduates of Advanced Leadership School are Connor Hamilton, Cleveland, Southeast Tennessee Young Marines; Oscar Pinate, Miami Springs, Fla., PFC Bruce W. Carter Young Marines; Blake DeWeese, Beaverton, Ore., Oregon Cascades Young Marines; Michael Borka, Swartz Creek, Mich., Shiawassee Young Marines; Codi Headrick, Fredericksburg, Va, Lance Cpl. Caleb Powers Young Marines; Darian Cousino, Monroe, Mich., Monroe County Young Marines; Matt O'Brien, Finksburg, Md., Carroll County Young Marines; Felix Pasto, Chula Vista, Calif., San Diego Young Marines; Daniel Sundine, Wichita, Kan., Tornado Alley Young Marines; and Brandon Gregg, Kennewick, Wash., Columbia River Young Marines.
Special invitees are Kayla Hall, Forney, Texas; Trinity Valley Young Marines; and Mary Wessell, Geneva, Ohio, Ashtabula County Young Marines.
The Young Marines is a national nonprofit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age 8 through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Since the Young Marines began in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to more than 300 units with 10,000 youth and 3,000 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan and affiliates in other countries.