Many Sedalia residents are familiar with the success of the Smith-Cotton JROTC program, but they may not realize all the photos depicting that success are taken by a longtime volunteer and former JROTC parent.
Cindy Hall, of Sedalia, has been the unofficial photographer of S-C JROTC since 2004 when her oldest son, Brett, joined the program when it first started. Her other son, Ryan, joined the program once he joined high school. However, Hall continued her service to JROTC even after Ryan graduated in 2009.
“They just needed pictures and I like taking pictures and we just clicked,” Hall said. It began with Hall and her husband, Dennis, taking photos and giving them to the team. She has taken photos for almost 14 years for JROTC, and she has a simple reason for sticking around: “the cadets.”
“Just helping the young people be motivated and seeing what all they do and accomplish, meeting their goals,” she said. “It’s just exciting and phenomenal to see what all they do.”
Hall travels with S-C JROTC to almost every event, no matter how far.
“Anything that they go to, they know that I’m most likely going to be there,” she said. “… They just do so many neat things, like going to the Truman Library. We’ve been to Royals games, State Fair (Community College) games.
“We just got to see a veteran get a pin from (Consul General of France Vincent Floreani earlier this year). I went up to the veterans home in Warrensburg the day they did the color guard for that. That’s just something you’ll see once in a lifetime. Just to be able to go and see stuff like that, to participate in the veterans day events they do and then be able to provide the pictures of those events for them, it’s just an honor.”
Hall has watched the drill and raider teams win meets and national championships, which include numerous events such as the rope bridge competition. The cadets aren’t the only ones who get a little muddy — Hall does whatever is necessary to get the perfect photo.
“Some of the favorite things I like to do, which some people would probably think I’m crazy, is at the raider meets when they do the one-rope bridge, I always cross whatever water they’re crossing and get to the other side so you can get the pictures of them running in the water,” she explained. “The first few times I did it, the judges said, ‘we don’t have a way for you to get across the water,’ and I’m like, ‘I know that. I’ll just walk across just like the cadets do.’”
When she’s not behind the camera, Hall helps run the Smith-Cotton JROTC meet silent auction and even drives cadets home from practice if needed. During the program’s recent inspection, Hall came with breakfast for the inspectors, then took almost 1,000 photos, said S-C JROTC instructor Lt. Col. Harry Cunningham.
“And there’s lots of time the instructors don’t treat themselves like they should, like eating and stuff like that or drinks, so there’s lots of times if they’re at drill practice if I’m going over there I’ll just run through McDonald’s and get something,” Hall said.
“Just little things, but it’s stuff that I enjoy doing. I like helping others. I always take my famous, which really aren’t famous, brownies on the drill and raider meets. For some reason the cadets love my brownies, which they’re just Betty Crocker out of the box,” she added with a laugh.
Hall’s hard work and dedication to the program doesn’t go unnoticed.
“She does so many things that are conducted behind the scenes that not too many people know about,” Cunningham said. “I say, ‘Cindy, you don’t need to do it,’ but she says ‘these cadets are like my kids.’
“It doesn’t seem to be anything like a burden, it seems that she really enjoys being here and working with the kids. We really appreciate it, we’re so thankful.”
Hall noted that her sons gained self-confidence and leadership skills from JROTC, which has carried into their adult lives. Ryan has been in the Army reserves since Summer 2008 and is deployed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the second time.
Fondly referred to by the cadets as Mama Hall, she said she plans to continue helping JROTC as long as she can.
“Her kids have long since graduated but she continues coming all the time, every booster club meeting, running the silent auction for the drill meet, she’s always here. She hasn’t stopped,” Cunningham said. “What a great example of service, we just appreciate her so much.”
She’s seen the program come from humble beginnings and credited the instructors and community for the program’s growth.
“I’ve seen it from the beginning to what it is now and it’s just unreal,” Mama Hall said tearfully. “The community support the program has is pretty awesome.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.