The Sons of the American Legion Squadron #347 presented a gift of ceremonial swords to the Army Junior ROTC cadets from Lake Weir High School at their meeting on Wednesday night. The swords were presented in a special handmade case with a plaque dedicated to Lake Weir High School senior and Cadet Command Sgt. Major Nicholas Watke who was killed in a motorcycle accident last November. The plaque read in part, “Lake Weir HS JROTC leader and true American Citizen.”
Watke’s mother, Maria, who lost her only child when Nicholas died, accepted the swords on behalf of the JROTC Cadets.
“I am very grateful that the Sons of the American Legion stepped up to contribute and show kindness to this program that is making our youth better citizens. I am so doggone proud of the kids and so doggone proud of this program. Thank you,” she said.
Commenting later on her composure while accepting the swords, she said “That was all God. Trust me I’ll cry it out later when I get home.”
About her son she said, “Nick would be very pleased. Commanding the sabre arch was his biggest passion. He used to polish and polish the swords they have for the annual military ball but he could never get all the blemishes out. He knew these swords were coming and he was so happy.”
Watke joined the JROTC as a freshman.
“He was on fire for this program,” said his mother. “It really gave him life. He was a natural born leader and liked hands-on-teaching.”
He was also known for his big smile and sense of humor.
“Sometimes I wonder why I am not laughing and then I think, it is because Nick’s not here. He always made us laugh,” said cadet Matthew Duncan who was in Watke’s sixth period JROTC class.
Instructor Sgt. Major Kessen said, “We always preach to the JROTC cadets that we are like a family. It takes a tragedy like this to see that we are a true family.”