An East Los Angeles student on Monday received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement Medal for her academic accomplishments and leadership skills as an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadet at James A. Garfield High School.
Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Rocio Ortega, a senior with a 4.2 academic grade point average, is the high school’s Army JROTC Battalion Commander in charge of over 100 cadets.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Cadete de JROTC de Garfield Recibe Medalla Prestigiosa 
She was awarded the medal during a small ceremony held after school at the Garfield Parent Center where she was surrounded by her family, parent volunteers, school officials and ROTC representatives.
Ortega, who is a talented public speaker, expressed gratitude for the award but lost her composure when she tried to thank her family. “Thank you everyone for being here with me because that means the world to me,” Ortega said between sobs in Spanish.
Fausta Ortega, Rocio’s mother, said she is very proud of Rocio, the third of her five children to join Garfield’s JROTC. Rocio’s parents are immigrants from Puebla, Mexico.
Garfield JROTC instructor Sgt. Raymond Eason said Ortega is the most mature Battalion Commander he has had since he began working at Garfield in 1997.
“Ever since I have worked with her, from the 9th grade to her senior year today, she’s very conscientious about taking care of the people, a fantastic leader, organizational skills and goal-ambitious minded,” Eason told EGP.
Principal Jose Huerta underscored that Ortega’s recognition puts her in a elite class, as just one of 50, or fewer, cadets across the U.S. receiving the award this year; the school has so far not been able to confirm if any past Garfield JROTC student has ever received the recognition.
“This is a very special time for us, we are very proud of her,” said Huerta. “She exemplifies everything we want our students to achieve. She has a 4.2 grade point average, she has all these accolades, she is a true leader…”
The Legion of Valor, an organization of decorated U.S. veterans, awards fewer than 50 bronze crosses to ROTC and JROTC cadets throughout the country each year. The medal’s purpose is to stimulate patriotism, national pride and interest in the Armed Forces of the United States, according to the press release.