logo_book
Hendersonville High School

The Ville News

 

Cadets marching as a unit, marksmen with rifles in hand and pellets downrange, and Raiders leaping, climbing and crawling through an obstacle course: this is the organized chaos that makes up the Hendersonville Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. 

 

For the last four years, one man has played a big part in making the necessary changes for this chaotic group of high school cadets to become a more organized and smooth-running group. 

 

Lt. Col. Jeff Stone is that man. By using his experience as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps, he has been able to make the Hendersonville High School JROTC into a better program.

Fresh out of high school in 1991, a young Lt. Col. Stone came in contact with his hometown Marine Recruiter. With heavy influence from both his father and grandfather, both of whom were Marines themselves, Lt. Col. Stone signed his first contract into the Marines as an officer.

For his first four years as a Marine, the young 2nd Lt would study Criminal Justice at West Liberty in West Virginia. Of course, as with all college students, Lt. Col. Stone didn’t just hit the books. He also wrestled in college. During his four years in college, he was able to become a three time All-American.

 

 As he threw his graduation cap into the air, he “didn’t know college would be where he spent the longest amount of time” in his 22-year military career.

 

Only a few years after graduation, Lt. Col. Stone was put into one of the very many sticky situations he would face as an officer. And like anyone new to a job, he made a few mistakes along the way.

It was a stormy day in Norway. Lt. Col. Stone’s ordnance (artillery) officer, the officer in charge of his mission, had gone back to the U.S., leaving the young Lt. Col. with the task of transporting the leftover artillery and bombs to a cave where they kept equipment of the sort.

  

¨I thought I would be smart. I thought about taking a young Marine and have him drive it around the (lake) on these cliffs to get to the caves, but it was too snowy, too treacherous to make the drive. So I took these kids and said, ‘let’s take the ordnance on the people’s ferry.’” 

  

He took the artillery and bombs on the public ferry and finally got the ordnance to the cave where it would be kept. But when his Commanding Officer found out what he did, he was threatened to be fired for almost causing an international incident. 

 

He had been looking out for his subordinates but disregarded the safety of the civilians who surrounded them. Looking back, Lt. Col. Stone said the experience taught him to always look beyond the moment and at the bigger picture.

 

During his 22 years in the Marines, he wasn't alone. Along the ride with him was his wife and four sons.

 

 ¨Being away from family is the hardest, but it’s also the one thing that keeps you going. I missed a lot of stuff (with my sons), I missed a lot of wrestling matches, a lot of school functions but they knew what I was doing and they were able to come on some of my tours, like Japan. Coming home from Afghanistan and seeing my kids, my family, I don't consider myself an emotional guy, but when I came home, it was a pretty emotional time.” 

 

After finishing his career as a Marine, Lt. Col. Stone knew he wanted to teach ROTC. He had actually been planning on working as an ROTC instructor at another school before he came to HHS. When Lt. Col. Stone did finally come here, he was excited but knew he would have his work cut out for him. After the ROTC had been run so many years with two Enlisted Marines, he saw what changes he needed to make as an officer.

 

Some of his first thoughts as he had walked through the compound doors were of how chaotic the program was but how blessed it was with space, supplies and gear. With these blessings, Lt. Col. Stone was able to facilitate a change from Word to Google, make the program more cadet-led, and organize the program’s supplies and gear.

 

“The most fun thing from the Marine Corps was having young Marines,” he said.”The best part of being a Marine is the troops, training them to lead, so I knew I wanted to do character development with young people.” 

 

Many of his cadets who have grown with Col. in the program have great things to say about him. Senior Darryl Smith commented that “Col. has changed the program for the better in a lot of ways. He has taken away much of the clutter, both literally and mentally, and made it more proficient.”

 

He has also helped make fond memories for many cadets, including senior Eithan Hillis, who shared one of his first memories of Lt. Col. Stone from his freshman year - Lt. Col. Stone’s first year teaching.

 

“Col. woke everyone up one morning for a Raider meet at Clarkrange. He was so big, loud and kinda scary, yelling ‘Revelry, Revelry,’” Eithan recalled.

 

Lt. Col. Stone has no plan of leaving any time soon. He says he enjoys the job too much.

“You get to know these kids,” he remarked. “Most teachers don't get to really know their students like we get to.”

 

Story by Victoria Petersen