The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

Dare to Lead
9.jpg

Citadel News Service
2 Oct 2017

Their journeys to earn The Citadel Band of Gold

citadel class of 2018 ring

The Citadel ring, known as The Band of Gold, symbolizes more than just a cadet's time spent as a member of The South Carolina Corps of Cadets, or the time in the classroom. It symbolizes the military college's core values of honor, duty, and respect; the same values Citadel cadets take with them to positions of leadership and service around the world after they earn the ring and graduate.

Every aspect of the ring is symbolic of the history and tradition of The Citadel's 175 years of educating principled leaders and service to the nation.

Cadets receive their rings early in their senior year during a formal ring ceremony that is customarily scheduled during Parents Weekend. The story of the journey to the ring is different for each cadet, but meaningful to them all.

Here is a look at the ring stories of some members of The Citadel Class of 2018. There will be one for each day of the week preceding Parents Weekend.

Cadet Grant Miller
Cadet Grace Jenkins
Cadet Tristan Arrowood
Cadet Dalia Martinez

Cadet Justin Mitchell

 

With his eyes on the prize, Cadet Grant Miller is no longer just dreaming of the ring

Cadet grant miller at nine

From the time that he was 9 years old, Cadet Grant Miller had dreams of becoming an officer in the U.S. Army. It was only fitting that the order, discipline, and camaraderie of the military attracted him to pursue a college education at The Citadel.

Growing up, Miller listened to many stories from family members who were Citadel graduates dating back to the 19th century. His predecessors include:

  • Col. J.G. Padgett, USAR (Ret.) Citadel BOV Member and namesake of Padgett-Thomas Barracks, Class of 1892
  • Brig. Gen. Wilford Joseph Hoff, Jr., USA Class of 1950
  • Richard Villacres, Class of 1988

After hearing his family stories, and reading Pat Conroy’s Lords of Discipline, Miller dreamed of joining the ranks of the prestigious Long Gray Line. He set his eyes on earning the prize—the iconic Citadel ring.

Little do people know that those eyes he set upon the highly-coveted ring nearly prevented him from realizing his dream of joining the Army.

Grant Miller as infant

Born three months premature, Miller weighed only one pound, 14 ounces, when doctors told his parents that there was a 50 percent chance of his survival. The doctors said if Miller did survive he would likely have physical and mental defects that would be beyond medical care. Thankfully, an intense laser surgery he had at 2 weeks old addressed the biggest issues and ultimately saved his eyesight.

But he wasn’t out of the woods just yet. During his senior year in high school, the Army informed Miller that the eye surgery he had as a baby was going to prevent him from serving his country and receiving the Army ROTC scholarship he had worked so hard to attain. In that difficult moment, Miller says he looked to his family for inspiration and support.

Miller’s father was the first in a large family to attend college. When he lost his job, Miller described cadet grant miller with his father and grandfatherit as a blessing in disguise because he was able to return to medical school to get a degree in anesthesia. “When he wasn’t working long hours in the hospital, he was studying and displaying a work ethic I strive to emulate every day,” said Miller.

A little further down his lineage was another example of courage. Miller’s grandfather, who grew up next door to Anne Frank in Holland as a teenager, helped hide a Jewish family in his attic during the Nazi occupation. His grandfather and his family moved to California after the war where he met his grandmother. One of 15 children, Miller’s grandmother, who knew no English, left her home in Ecuador in search of opportunity for a better life in the United States.

Miller says the moment his college dreams almost ended before they even began, he kept steadfast in his faith and thought of his family. “I looked to my family’s examples for strength, and that is a lesson I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

All of Miller’s efforts paid off when less than a month after graduating high school, he was given the medical waiver he needed to keep his Army ROTC scholarship and to attend The Citadel as a member of the Class of 2018.

“When people see that ring, whether in Charleston or around the globe, they see that reflection of the bravery and the principles that Citadel women and men exude,” said Miller. “When I finally place that ring upon my finger, I will know that the intensity with which my family and I worked to get here was for something; that this is finally a reality, and that I am no longer dreaming.”

 

Athlete achieves dream of living in castle

By Cadet Grace Jenkins, 3rd Battalion Commander

Cadet Grace jenkins as a child

(James Jenkins, Citadel Class of 2016, and Grace Jenkins, Citadel Class of 2018 as children)

I always wanted to live in a castle. Like many young girls, I admired the fairytales and dreamed to live as a princess. Little did I know, one day I would get to live in a castle: 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, South Carolina.

Cadets Grace and James jenkins

(Grace Jenkins at a freshman, with brother James)

Wearing matching gray outfits and cutting my hair to match my 12-year-old little brother's was not how I envisioned my castle lifestyle. Instead, I found myself running cross country, studying at the German Armed Forces School, and becoming a U.S. Marine.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where I played ice hockey my whole life. I played in a male dominant sport and was often the only girl on the ice. My older brother was in the league above me, and I subconsciously followed a lot of what he did. It was no surprise I would carry that mentality when searching for my post-secondary education.

cadet grace jenkins as hockey player

Needless to say, I followed in James' footsteps to The Citadel.

Funding my education on a Marine Corps and Track scholarship, I had a lot on my plate. Many times I questioned if I would complete all four years with such a workload. My first encounter with the Marine unit was a 60-pound pack and a weekend getaway to Parris Island – an Cadet Grace Jenkins The Citadelexperience I will never forget. The cross country team welcomed me with a trip to the Citadel Beach House...traveling the 16 miles on foot. My castle lifestyle was not so glamorous and challenged me in many ways. However, I knew what I was working for.

My hair grew back, and I made it to senior year. I get my ring soon, and I couldn’t be more excited. The hard work has paid off and my time on the famed “road less traveled” is coming to an end. I never got my fantasized monarch dream, but I had the opportunity to live in a castle and have an experience like no other. I have an opportunity at my fingertips to go on from The Citadel and serve our country in one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. I plan to commission into the Marine Corps in May and one day read fairy tales to children of my own in hopes that they too will dream to live in a castle.

 

GoFundMe project helps cadet purchase coveted ring

Tristan arrowood

When Regimental Religious Officer Tristan Arrowood reached his senior year, he realized that he did not have sufficient funds to celebrate the milestone with the purchase of the coveted Citadel ring. For Arrowood, the ring symbolizes his Citadel journey, the bond he has with his classmates, and what he has endured to succeed in life. Believing he would not receive his ring with his class, Arrowood was devastated.

To help cadets who cannot afford their rings, The Citadel offers several ring-funding programs, including The Citadel Foundation’s Col. Harvey M. Dick, ’53 Memorial Ring Endowment. Although at first reluctant to ask anyone for help, Arrowood had heard about the Col. Dick fund and was in the process of finding out more when his girlfriend, Bobbi-Jo Culbertson, decided to help out. A senior computer science major at the College of Charleston and a member with Arrowood of the Wesley Foundation, Culbertson set up a GoFundMe webpage to solicit a few donations for Arrowood’s ring. She never imagined the response the webpage would soon receive.

GoFundMe Arrowood

Within eight hours of the GoFundMe webpage going live, the cost of Arrowood’s ring was covered by donations. Cadets, alumni, and parents contributed to the fund, and one anonymous donor even pledged $700. “It honestly made me so happy I almost cried,” said Arrowood. “Something similar happened to me knob year. I was having problems paying for school and was told that I would not be able to return second semester. But the financial aid department helped me find extra scholarships so that I could stay.”

Amazed by such kindness, Arrowood is well aware of the uniqueness of The Citadel community. “Both of these things have truly helped me see the best side this school has to offer, and that is the generosity that the faculty and alumni always have and how they are always willing to help if they can. Many other schools don't seem to do this for their students.”

Originally from Moore, South Carolina, Arrowood aspires to attend medical school after graduation. “I want to go to medical school for two primary reasons,” said Arrowood. “First, I find neurology interesting, and second, my mom has multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. I would like to be able to help her if I can in the future, and I knew when I considered colleges that The Citadel would be my best choice for getting into medical school.”

 

Martinez starts her own Citadel legacy with her band of gold

Cadet Dalia Martinez the Citadel

In 1995, Cadet Dalia Martinez’s parents immigrated to the United States from Puebla, Mexico. She arrived a year later, becoming the first in her family to be born in America. After initially settling in the Bronx, New York, Martinez’s family moved to Cherry Grove, South Carolina when she was 8 years old.

Before she knew it, it was time to start thinking about college and her future.

Martinez says she has always had what she describes as a strong sense of patriotism, and she wanted to surround herself with inspiring people who would show her how to become more disciplined. When it was time to apply to college, she already had the Military College of South Carolina in mind.

“The Citadel seemed like the perfect place to attend because it is filled with men and women who are all striving for excellence in everything they do,” said Martinez.

As a first-generation American and a first-generation college student, Martinez says her Citadel experience has included highlights, but also some hurdles.

“Persevering during times of challenge in the military culture has made the many positive experiences even more meaningful,” she said. “At the end of the day, I am here to build my own legacy.”

Martinez shares some advice for other first-generation Americans who long to be the first in their families to attend college.

“The college application process can be difficult to navigate when your parents are not able to hold your hand. Many, like me, have likely had to handle difficult situations since childhood. For example, I often had to speak on my parents’ behalf,” she said. “However, the challenge teaches maturity and how to work with urgency and focus.”

Martinez, a biology major, was up to the challenge. She has held numerous leadership positions at The Citadel, including Regimental Public Affairs Officer.

“Use your background as a driving force,” she said. “Set a good example. Be the first person in your family to make the next step, but you also have to make sure you are not the last.”

Cadet Dalia Martinez at ring sizing event

Now a senior at The Citadel, Martinez is taking some of the final steps needed to complete her own legacy. She hopes to commission into the U.S. Air Force as an officer at some point after graduating in May. Martinez looks to her younger brother as the next in line to follow her example of attending college.

“I have always wished to be a good example for him to follow. The ring solidifies the hard work that I have invested in my future for four years. I think that it sets a high standard for him and provides a clear expectation that I know he will surpass.”

For Martinez, the ring also provides a reminder of all of the sacrifices that she and her parents had to make. “It symbolizes the tenacity that my parents have instilled in me to achieve what I put my mind to. A lot of people were not able to make it to this point and many more will never get the chance to.”

The band of gold around her finger will also remind Martinez that she was not alone in her journey. “I am incredibly blessed to have the support of the people around me. It will serve as a constant reminder that every day I must strive to be better than I think I can be. Not only for myself but also those that will come after me,” said Martinez.

 

Senior marks a 90-year family legacy while earning The Citadel Band of Gold
Cadet Justin Mitchell

 

Cadet Justin Mitchell of Irmo, South Carolina, knew from the moment it was time to start applying to colleges that he was going to do his best to attend The Citadel. He had been traveling to and from Charleston for as long as he could remember. He proudly comes from a Long Gray Line within his own family that spans nine decades.

As a senior about to receive his Citadel ring, he often credits the day he accepted a cadet-candidate position during his junior year of high school as the best decision he’s made in his life thus far.

When Mitchell graduates in May, he will be continuing a 90-year legacy that started with his great-grandfather, J. Henry Stuhr (Class of 1928).

jmitchell ring story 1 jmitchell ring story 2 jmitchell ring story 3
jmitchell ring story 4 jmitchell ring story 5 jmitchell-6
jmitchell-7

Other members of Mitchell’s linage who earned the ring include (seen above, left to right):

  • J. Harry Stuhr (Class of 1928)
  • William S. Stuhr (Class of 1958)
  • James "Jimmie" Jones (Class of 1958)
  • Frederick Stuhr (Class of 1959)
  • David Stuhr (Class of 1962)
  • Preston Dukes (Class of 2010)
  • Robert P. Mitchell (Class of 2015)

“My grandfather, James Emerson Jones II, was Class of 1958 and was a member of Junior Sword Drill and rear guide for the 1958 Summerall Guards. My grandfather also served as the chairman of The Citadel Board of Visitors for some time. He was the definition of a Citadel man until the day he died,” says Mitchell.

Mitchell is majoring in business administration and is a member of Papa Company. He says his Citadel experience has been exciting, including a semester spent studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. He is currently studying and interning in Athens, Greece, through The Citadel's Global Scholars program. Like his grandfather, Mitchell is a member of the prestigious Summerall Guards. He is also the president of his business fraternity, Pi Sigma Epsilon.

“The band of gold that I will receive with my classmates will serve as a reminder to me of not only where I come from but where I'm going as well as what values to stick to in case I forget,” says Mitchell. “As I travel through this crazy journey of life, it will be a reminder to me every day when I look at it that when life gets tough, the tough get going.”


Back to Top