GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) -- Two esteemed leaders of the Union High School Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) are retiring, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire scholars for generations.

First Sgt. Ron Voisinet and Major Robert Ware retired following the 2023-24 school year, marking the end of an era for the program.

The JROTC program at Union High School was established in 1921, over a century ago. Major Ware, an alumnus who participated in the program as a student, graduated from Union High School in 1979. After 22 years of military service, he returned to Union in 2005 to lead the JROTC.

First Sgt. Voisinet joined the Union team after 24 years in the military, finding his calling as a JROTC instructor.  "Somebody said be a JROTC instructor, and I looked at it, and said this is exactly what I want to do," he said.

"It's been great, it's been a great experience," Major Ware said of leading JROTC with First Sgt. Voisinet. "We work very well together. It's kind of like a ying and a yang."

"We have two totally different personalities," First Sgt. Voisinet added. He is more laid-back, talking with the kids and helping them with their issues more one-on-one. I am a little more intense."

Their leadership has profoundly impacted many scholars, who praise the mentorship provided by First Sgt. Voisinet and Major Ware. 

"It makes you know who you are," Dilanny, a scholar in the JROTC program, explained. "It makes you know your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to work on."

"They are really good mentors. They explain stuff they have been through when they were teenagers," Union JROTC scholar Aileen added.

"This program impacted me because now I know how to communicate way better and handle bigger problems and challenges in a better way," Union JROTC scholar Amy said.

To honor their retiring leaders, current Union JROTC scholars organized a surprise retirement party, inviting several former members to join in the farewell celebration.

"It was good to see the kids that had graduated come back and see what they are doing," said Major Ware. "To know that we had just a small part in making that success happen for the kids.

"The success of these kids is everything," said First Sgt. Voisinet. "The hours I spend away from my family to spend with the kids makes it really worth it to hear those stories."

As Union High School bids farewell to these two dedicated leaders, their legacy will undoubtedly continue to shape the lives of future JROTC scholars.