A Cleveland Christian High School senior, he has received many awards and ribbons, and has participated in a multitude of color guards. He looked into joining the military and found the Sea Cadet’s youth program to begin training early. Soon after he joined the cadets, his parents Patrick and Angie Abercrombie became the executive officer and administrative officer respectively within the same local unit.
“This has given me a lot of opportunities that a lot of kids my age haven’t had the chance to experience,” Abercrombie said.
The Sea Cadets follow the Navy’s enlisted ranks structure up to E7 – chief petty officer. Abercrombie has achieved this title and is in charge of his unit, making sure things run smoothly.
“I am an E7, which means I am in charge of the unit. I am the highest enlisted in the unit. My job is to make sure everything runs smoothly,” Abercrombie said. “My biggest challenge has been passing the Sea Cadet boot camp, because it is mentally and physically draining. My biggest accomplishment has been making chief in the sea cadets. Only one quarter of cadets make chief petty officer.”
One weekend every month, the cadets report at 8:30 a.m. to engage in a rigorous boot camp schedule. They go over a list of things that need to be done for the day and begin. After putting on their physical training uniforms, they do PTs (a physical readiness test that they must pass in order to gain ranking). Once they are finished they have a guest speaker or a class on some aspect of Navy life. They follow up with eating chow, doing basic cleanup, color guard practice on Saturdays and formation and marching training. They end their day with closing remarks and are dismissed at 3:30 p.m.
“The color guards are through the sea cadets; different groups will ask us to come out to present the American flag and flag of their choice (two or three choices). I have taken on the role of color guard coordinator for our local unit and as a part of that job I am required to be in or present for every one of them,” Abercrombie said.
During color guard training, the cadets work on their rifle movements and positioning of the flag (proper way to hold and angle them). The color guard is very organized and everything has to be just right; in fact, cadets can spend an hour or more making sure everything looks perfect. One of the hardest maneuvers, according to Abercrombie, is called the Pinwheel, where one turns a full 180 degrees while marching in step and standing shoulder to shoulder with the other cadets.
“Multiple people inspire me. Those that served on 9/11 inspire me the most, because of the sacrifices they made. They did not have to do what they did, and it makes me think, ‘Could I do the same thing?” Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie is the first young adult selected for the Flag Honors Program in service to the governments of the city of Cleveland and Bradley County. He has volunteered to ensure the U.S. flag is flown at the City Municipal building, Bradley County Courthouse and Courthouse Annex in accordance with the U.S. Flag Code, and is lowered to half-staff upon presidential or governor of Tennessee proclamation via email and properly raised upon expiration of the proclamation. Abercrombie’s duty to this is for one year, from June 1 to May 31.
“We would drive through town and I would know the flag was supposed to be at half-staff, and many were not. They told me I could fix the problem so we created the Flag Honors Program with the approval of Mayor [D. Gary] Davis and Mayor [Tom] Rowland,” Abercrombie said. “I go speak to civic groups and schools about our flag. I have talked to the Sunrise Rotary Club and have seen a change in how many people have flags up, as far as businesses go.”
Abercrombie and his father proposed and developed initial guidelines for the program and appeared before the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission to obtain permission to create the program.
Regardless of when proclamations are received, Abercrombie dons his First Class Sea Cadet uniform and reports to the service site.
“I realize that the word needs to be spread more about how to care for the flag. I would like to see the program spread to other cities and counties,” Abercrombie said. “I feel like there are a lot of people in the same position as we were here (in Bradley County). The fact that the courthouse is closed on holidays and the flag still needs to be lowered accordingly, that is what this program is for; to give responsibility to raise and lower the flag promptly.”
“The lowering and raising of the flags is certainly more dignified and timely than ever before,” said Larry McDaris, director of the Bradley County Veterans Services Office. “We hope this to be the beginning of a program to continue in years to come, including Bradley Central High School JROTC and/or Cleveland Civil Air Patrol Cadets.”
Guidelines are set and once they are met, whatever group’s turn it is to nominate someone will go with Abercrombie to the next proclamation that comes after that, and will show them what to do so that they may begin their tour within the Flag Honors Program.
“My main goal is to make a career out of the Navy. I plan to go into it right after high school and pass boot camp. I have been talking to a recruiter and am waiting to hear back about a ship-out date,” Abercrombie said.
Many are unaware of the Navy’s Sea Cadet program.
“We sometimes jokingly call it the best-kept secret of the Navy, because a lot of people don’t know this program exists,” Abercrombie said.
There are standard requirements to be in the Sea Cadet Program. The age requirement is from 11 to 17 years old, one must be a U.S. citizen and it is required that they pass a sports physical. Other than those requirements, they cannot discriminate
Aside from his schooling, work, Flag Honors Program and sea cadets training, Abercrombie serves the community through Ocoee Outreach. He has logged 173 hours of community service. Ocoee Outreach is a service through the Bradley Baptist Association that is for low-income families. It does repair work on families’ homes.
“The main part of my heart is to my country, but the other part goes towards mission work,” Abercrombie said. “This (Ocoee Outreach) gives me the opportunity to do mission work to help my city.”