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Oasis JROTC cadet receives Legion of Valor Bronze Cross

By Staff | Sep 20, 2016

A Cape Coral student is the first JROTC cadet in Lee County to receive a special honor.

Cadet Battalion Commander Branden Pearson, 17, a senior at Oasis High School, was presented with the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement at a ceremony Tuesday morning at the school. He is only one of 48 students nationwide – and one of two in Florida – to be awarded the medal this year.

“I’m someone who really strives for excellence in all I do,” Branden said, noting that people should aim to be their best and take advantage of every opportunity. “I think in life you should take every shot.”

He had to apply for the recognition and then get selected in a lengthy process.

“You don’t know who your competition is until you put yourself out there,” Branden said.

The head of Oasis High’s JROTC Shark Battalion, he was also promoted to cadet colonel on Tuesday.

Retired Col. Steven Epkins, the school’s senior Army instructor, explained that he was kind of shocked Branden received the honor, but not really. Putting together Branden’s application packet said it all.

“When I looked at the whole packet, it was the best I’d ever seen,” he said.

Each school picks one cadet to move forward to the district, which encompasses Lee County. The district then selects one student from its countywide nominees to move on, and so on and so on.

Everyone seemed to agree on the quality of Branden’s application as it proceeded forward.

“I knew it was going to go to Cadet Command,” Epkins said.

He called the recognition for Branden, Oasis High and the county exciting.

“It’s the first ever in Lee County after almost 60 years of JROTC,” Epkins said.

The Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement is awarded to high school seniors based on scholastic achievement, leadership potential and a cadet’s performance over the three years.

Branden began the application process in April.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” he said.

At an awards ceremony in May, Branden learned that the district selected him.

“My packet showed a great depth,” he said he was told by his commanding officers.

In addition to JROTC, Branden is a Key Club member and has been a Model United Nations member. He was the class president his junior year and is marking his third year on the varsity football team.

“As a JROTC cadet, I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities,” Branden said.

Last year, he was a member of Oasis High’s JROTC Academic Team when it came in first place in Florida and ninth place nationwide in an annual competition he described as similar to a “quiz bowl.”

Branden, who wants to attend Stanford University and continue with the ROTC program, believes receiving the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement will have an impact on his future.

He wants to earn degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.

“When it comes down to it, it’s not just an award,” Branden said, explaining that it is a reflection of himself and the JROTC program offered at his school. “It’s the character taught in the program.”

He noted that he has worked with great leaders.

“They’ve all in some way influenced and helped me,” Branden said.