Drill: A Season Cut too Soon


Laughter and smiles fill my room as my sister and I dance to our favorite song. All is interrupted when a notification ring is sounded from my phone. “Yesterday, there was an announcement made by NHSDTC (National High School Drill Team Championships) stating that both on-site and online competition has been canceled due to the conditions of the virus,” senior and Armed Drill Team Commander Jessie Yu posted on Facebook.

According to the NHSDTC website (https://thenationals.net/nhsdtc.htm), “Team events and dual events have been cancelled. However, the Armed Solo Exhibition Event is still on and moved into an online format event for the 2020 competition.”

Patriot Guard, a competitive drill team within the JROTC program at Francis Lewis, started its season in early February.  Within the team, there are four events that members compete in: color guard, inspection, regulation, and exhibition. In addition, the team participates in two competitions annually, League and Brigade, before Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida in early May.  In past years Patriot Guard has swept the competition at League and Brigade by placing first in the majority of events.

“League and Brigade competitions mark the beginning of a new year of challenges,” Jessica Yu said.  “It is a process where we work together to find and fix our mistakes before competing in Nationals.”

Before the closure of schools, members of Patriot Guard were concerned that the trip to Daytona Beach would be cancelled as news of the Coronavirus was spreading quickly.  Unfortunately, the cancellation means that the drill season has been cut short for team members, but it hit the seniors on another level.

“After Brigade, I was pumped for my last Nationals,” Yu said. “It was the last chance for the seniors to make memorable memories with the team.”

“It still upsets me whenever I realize that my journey with the team has ended before Nationals,” Jessie Yu added. “Our team goes through a lot together and because of that, we created a family bond that is inseparable. Part of me feels sad and incomplete knowing that [drill] won’t be a part of my daily life anymore.”

Alumni Daejahnel Thompson, one of the commanders of Patriot Guard in 2019, competed in all four years during her time on the team and she has witnessed the same bond Yu mentions between team members. 

“I’ve seen a lot of team camaraderie and the familial sense of it gets a lot stronger over the years because of Nationals,” Thompson said. 

The overall placing of Patriot Guard in Nationals has fluctuated between second and third place from 2016 to 2019.

“The atmosphere of being around everyone during Nationals and seeing the progress you’ve made solidifies the bonds within the team more than other competitions,” Thompson added. “I think that’s a big part of what many people missed out on this year by not being able to go to Nationals.”

Patriot Guard usually practices six days a week with grueling hours during the season.  The temporary break has taken a toll on some members of the team.  

“I feel like there is nothing to do with my life because when we still had drill, we were at school for six out of the seven days for sometimes as long as twelve hours, but now we are home all the time,” sophomore Abby Lee said.  “I used to spend almost no time at home so we don’t know what to do or how to deal with being at home.”

Some team members are concerned how this break will affect the team in the future.

“As a whole, we really need to work harder than ever to get ourselves up to where we need to be,” junior Ahlia Vasquez said. “Exhibition, including myself, is lacking in skill compared to other years and this [break] does not help us out. We’ve overcome things as a team before, so I’m positive we’ll join together and find a way to make things work.”

Jessie Yu believes that the break will teach valuable lessons to the team in the future.

“It will teach them two lessons,” Jessie Yu said. “They will learn that they should treat every practice and competition as if it’s their last, [and] they will learn that life’s too short and time is precious.” 

When asked about her experience on the team throughout her time at Francis Lewis, Jessie Yu emphasized that team members should not take their experience for granted.

“You won’t realize how precious the team is until it’s your last year,” Jessie Yu said. “It is normal to dread practice, but don’t give up. Times will get tough, but you’re strong enough to push past these obstacles. My experience with drill has been memorable, and I will always have the team in my heart.”