Madisonville resident Cade Colwell, 17, attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security last month in Washington D.C. and was afforded the opportunity to help lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.
Colwell was selected to attend the program on national security along with 200 other students around the world. The University of Maryland and the Envision Career and Leadership Program sponsored the five-day event that included informative meetings and tours of Congress.
“I learned many things about our government that I never knew and got to see things that most of the public is not allowed to, which was amazing,” said Colwell. “But the thing that stuck with me most of all is how hard it truly is to pass a bill in Congress and why we do not seem to get much done.”
All of the students were required to write an essay beforehand on why they should be selected to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Colwell’s essay highlighting his family’s history in the military and the sixteen Madisonville Veterans he interviewed for an Eagle Scout project last year earned him the right to help lay the wreath. Their memories are now housed in the Library of Congress.
“I received this honor by writing a letter about my great-grandpa and grandpa’s wartime service and my Eagle Scout project,” said Colwell. “Only four people were chosen out of hundreds that wrote letters.”
After hearing from various officials in the capital on the first day, the students returned to the university to learn about the security strategies used by our government and held an election to instill their own mock government.
Colwell, who has plans to someday join the United State Marine Corp, was appointed to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who typically acts as the principal military adviser to the President.
The following day included a tour of the FBI and Pentagon for the students with security clearance. They would also attend a career fair with all of the branches of the military and representatives from the FBI and Department of Defense.
On Wednesday, the students participated in war exercises where each played a critical role as elected officials, cabinet members, military, press and citizens. Colwell was in charge of the military as a four-star general. The mock event’s objective was to prevent China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from joining forces against the United States and allies.
“In my future, I plan to go to college anywhere that I can get a football scholarship,” said Colwell. “After college, I plan to join the Marines and make it my career. After serving, I would like to run for President of the United States of America.”
Colwell will begin his junior year at Madisonville High School in the fall.