When Daylan Williams was named Leavenworth High School JROTC Cadet of the Year in 2017, it was by far one of his biggest accomplishments as a sophomore.
By RIMSIE McCONIGA
When Daylan Williams was named Leavenworth High School JROTC Cadet of the Year in 2017, it was by far one of his biggest accomplishments as a sophomore. This confidence boost also made him want to go above and beyond and accomplish as much as he could in his remaining high school years.
As a sophomore, he was also named the CSM (cadet sergeant major) for the 2017-2018 school year.
“It is a tough competition due to the simple fact that my competitors are the top cadets in my Leadership Education and Training (LET) level,” says Daylan. “In order to be eligible for the Cadet of the Year board, cadets must first win the Cadet of the Month boards. I won my Cadet of the Month board last September. There aren’t any specific standards that a Cadet of the Year must hold, but typically they are among the top of the graduating class, active in school sports, and take initiative through leadership in the JROTC program. I was most proud of my growth when I won Cadet of the Year in 2017. It is not every day that you get to see a clear definition of growth in yourself. Winning Cadet of the Year in 2016 and 2017 allowed me to really track that growth. That in itself is a great opportunity that I have been blessed with because not everyone gets opportunities like that.”
JROTC is very important to Daylan. He joined the program at the start of his freshman year. Prior to that, he was a member of the Lansing Middle School Junior Guard program.
He got into the JROTC program because he knew he wanted to serve his country through military service after he graduated from high school.
“That is certainly not why I stayed,” says Daylan. “The JROTC program to me is all about community. It, like the military, is about belonging to something that is so much bigger than yourself. The program at LHS is about belonging to the JROTC community no matter what, even if you are at a different school. The program introduced me to so many different aspects of citizenship and leadership during my freshman year that have acted like little seeds within my personality and mindset. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage are the Seven Army Values, but they are also the building block to how you should interact with yourself, other people and your environment. JROTC teaches young men and women skills that will be useful throughout life. To me the biggest skill JROTC has taught me is not how to clear an eight-foot wall with a 35-pound rucksack, but simply how to lead people and work with them. The biggest part of being a leader is learning how to be a follower. This has taught me to recognize the chain of command, but not be in a dazed glare when I do so. I recognize that they too are just doing their job. I also have learned how to push the boundary in regards to authority and hold everyone to a higher standard. I am leaning on everything but my pinky finger toward a career in the world’s greatest Army.”
His JROTC instructors at Leavenworth High School are, Daylan says, at times, his biggest supporters.
“This is especially true for 1SG Wayne Cogdill Jr.,” he said. “He and SFC Christopher Hyde are always ready to go on an adventure to help you solve your problems. They both have so much energy and passion for the program it is contagious. SFC Rex Loewen is different on the other hand, but not in a bad way. He is most of the time more reserved which allows for him to connect on a personal level with all of his cadets. SFC Loewen is the LET 3 or Junior adviser so he reaches all of the cadets during what can be the most stressful year of high school for many of the cadets. I like to think I was blessed with the chance to work closely with LTC Eric Hollister before he left our program. As the CSM, I planned our military ball so LTC Hollister was able to advise me on things that had happened in the past, but he was always supportive of my ideas in my work. While I haven’t had much time to work with him yet, I know MAJ Scillieri will be a big part of my support system through senior year. The position of Senior Army Instructor or Army instructor are important ones not just because they are in charge of everything that goes on in the battalion, but because they act as the models for many cadets if they decide to pursue a career in the military after high school. Knowing this makes me, and should make the community, take pride in our JROTC instructors at LHS.”
There are many military leaders that Daylan admires. Two of his favorites who had very different styles of leadership and tactics are Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton. As for Eisenhower, Daylan says, “I am most like him on a personal level, a small town Kansas boy who wants to go to West Point. I admire his leadership through World War II and I also admire much of what he did as president. He was a man who would always look at the full situation and take in others’ thoughts before he acted. Patton was not known for being nice or the most well-behaved person, but he got the job done with a fierce passion. I look to him as an example of the level of intensity I should carry with me always when I complete a task. I have been mesmerized by his life ever since I watched the major motion picture, ‘Patton.’ Both Patton and Eisenhower are West Point graduates so that doesn't hurt their reputations in my eyes at all.”
Daylan describes his recent experience at Kansas Boys State where he served as attorney general as “a week that changed my life.” His self-described, “humbling experience” not only gave him insight on how his state government works, but also mirrored how national government works as well.
“Because this year is an election year, I was provided with the opportunity to return back to the Leavenworth area and capitalize on my experience at Kansas Boys State,” he said. “I now clearly understand the importance of what primary results can mean in the general elections. I know how hard it can be to choose between candidates who all identify so close on important issues and what a struggle for voters that can be. That is what happened at the Federalist Party Caucus at Boys State with every position we voted for. The candidates who our party backed, in the end, were not the people who said, ‘I will abide by the party platform while listening to the voices of my constituents.’ The people who were backed were the ones who said that as their opener or set themselves apart in other ways. Both Chayne Dessaso and Nate Baker were over the top in their speeches and I even threw a stack of empty note cards behind my back to grab my party’s attention. Setting yourself apart during the primary elections really worked for the Federalist Party candidates at Boys State because we moved on to win all but one of the positions for state executives.”
Daylan believes the Federalist Party’s big win at Boys State came about because the party selected candidates who were not afraid of “standing out and getting their hands dirty.”
Before the general election and debate night all the candidates came together and ensured they were all on the same page. And they all agreed that the No. 1 priority on their lists was the young men of Boys State, which Daylan is convinced won “hearts and minds” for the Federalist Party.
During his stint as attorney general Daylan learned a lot about how government functions by creating a new budget and mending the prior year’s budget for Boys State. He quickly learned how tedious, yet important, the process is. One of the most powerful things he learned was just how powerful the people’s voice can be.
“One of my campaign promises was to be open and connected to all of the counties and cities in Boys State,” says Daylan. “To fulfill this promise I traveled to all of the Boys State counties and spoke directly with commissioners, mayors, police chiefs, and district attorneys about what they needed and wanted to see. Their responses had a direct impact on my list of objectives. I reassured them I was doing everything within my government-granted powers to help. However, I also encouraged them to speak with their Boys State senators and representatives. In doing this I empowered them to speak up for their needs which resulted in the budget getting pushed through Congress faster due to outside pressure. My experience at Kansas Boys State taught, and showed me first-hand, that the power of government lies with the people. This year representation from Leavenworth County was heavy at Boys State and this is a good thing. Both area schools, Lansing and Leavenworth, had top elected officials, advisers, and media personnel. The state executive office was almost fully employed by Leavenworth County. This only goes to show what an amazing job the community is doing to promote involvement in academic activities and programs such as Boys State.”
While his views on major issues were closely aligned with the Federalist party platform, Daylan’s views on the legalization of marijuana diverged from the party’s majority. He decided to make a concession on this topic but he ran heavily on defending the Second Amendment to ensure that no member of Boys State would have his right to bear arms infringed upon.
Correcting our “broken justice system” was also an important stance for Daylan. He believes that a healthy relationship between police and communities should be reestablished.
Boys State governor Dessaso described Daylan as one of the hardest working members of the staff at Boys State and said that he always brought a high level of intensity and drive into the office.
“I don’t think these qualities will help me in any career I go into because these qualities are just a byproduct of something bigger,” says Daylan. “I have a passion for everything I do. This means I will not end up in a career where I see no room for growth or where I am bored. Having a passion and actually liking what you do is something that I think our society as a whole has lost in recent years and it really worries me. We are quick to share stories on Facebook of people who do amazing things with their work, but turn around and come home and complain to their loved ones about how much today at worked sucked. Passion is key. If there is no passion there is no energy. If there is no energy, there is no work, and the most rewarding things in life are the things you work for.”
As Daylan begins his last year in high school he is most looking forward to inspiring others to action.
“The opportunity that is provided to every senior student in the United States to be a role model just by example is one that should not be taken lightly. I hope to be an active role model for younger generations and young moldable freshmen. As battalion commander I know I will certainly have this opportunity put in the spotlight.”
He says he has been gifted with an amazing staff this year to assist in running the LHS Pioneer Battalion and he looks forward to seeing what some of the greatest minds in the battalion can create together.
“There is a new energy in the air of the department that you can just feel when you walk in the door,” says Daylan.
For Daylan, his success is largely due to his strong support system.
“My home family is beyond supportive of all of my activities,” says Daylan. “They have made so many sacrifices to get me where I am today and I can be nothing but thankful for that. They know that I do everything because it makes me happy, but it is also a way to show thanks to them and all of my supporters. I use ‘home family’ because I have many families that support me: friends, JROTC, Raiders, drill, KAY, teachers, soccer, swim, tennis, and so many more. I want to leave behind a legacy of success and growth when (God) calls upon me. I want this to set up others for success in the future but to also pay my thanks to everyone that has come before me.”