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The Young Marines, a national youth organization, named its Division 6 Young Marine of the Year – YM SgtMaj Jascha J. Ely, 17, of Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the East Valley Young Marines which meets in Mesa, Arizona. Ely is a junior at Crossroads Christian School.

Ely is the top Young Marine in Division 6 which includes six states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California and Arizona. Over the course of the year, he will travel to other units throughout the division to lead, motivate, and serve as a role model.

"It took about two days to believe I’d won and to let it sink in with my family,” Ely said. “The phone calls I received helped me realize that it was true. It is a prestigious privilege to receive this honor and serve the Division 6 Young Marines as its Young Marine of the Year.”

Ely joined the Young Marines at age eight and is in his eighth year in the program.

“I joined because friends encouraged my parents to let me join,” he said. “At the time, the Young Marines was growing with new opportunities available. For example, the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony was in the planning stage, and that intrigued me. Another opportunity was the SPACES summer adventure program.”

Ely received the Young Marines National Personal Commendation in 2015. He had the most community service hours of any Young Marines in the nation, followed with the Col. Hilgartner Community Service Award. Three times, he has been recognized with the Division and Regimental Commendation of Merit for good conduct. Other recognitions are for Academic Achievement - five times; Young Marines Achievement - five times; drill competition - two times; Perfect Attendance Award - three times; and 24 other awards. Ely is certified in Project Alert and FEMA, and he was an Honor Graduate from the FEMA camp.

Outside of the Young Marines, Ely is captain of the Dove Archery Team of Arizona, and he is a student leader at the Mars Hills Speech and Debate Club. He served as chairman of TeenPact. The VFW honored him with certificates of commendation for outstanding work in the community, and he won first place in the VFW’s Voice of Democracy competition. He won the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, the DEA--US DOJ Certificate of Appreciation, and the Mesa Police Department’s Certificate of Appreciation.

In addition, Ely received letters of appreciation or congratulations from United States Representative David S. Schweikert, Congressman Matt Salmon, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and the United States Marine Corps.

He plans to earn a degree in forensics at Northern Arizona University and then attend a police academy to start his path in forensic investigation and law enforcement.

“The Young Marines program has given me and continues to give me opportunities that are pretty rare,” Ely said. “I have learned leadership skills and the true ‘science’ of being a leader. The program has helped me with maturity, discipline, and public speaking / teaching. With the knowledge, wisdom, and experiences I’ve had, I know I will be able to use these skills in my future.”

As Division 6 Young Marine of the Year, he will escort WWII veterans next spring to the annual Reunion of Honor trip to Guam and Iwo Jima.

Ely is the son of Junieth and Nathan Halliwill. His two brothers Caleb Halliwill, 13, and Ezra Halliwill, 9, are both Young Marines. He also has a younger sister who is eager to join when she is 8-years-old. His grandfather is a USMC Vietnam Veteran and his maternal uncle is an active duty Marine.

“I am humbled and thankful for being able to learn the dangers of drugs, the value of veterans, and the purpose of internal growth in leadership,” he said. “The Young Marines gave me my passion.”

How it works

The Young Marines organization is divided into six divisions across the United States. Each Young Marine goes through a series of selection processes starting at the unit level, going through battalion, regiment and on to the division. Then one Young Marine of the Year is selected from each division.

Ely will represent his division in competition with five other division Young Marines of the Year for the title of National Young Marine of the Year which will be announced at the Adult Leaders’ Conference on Saturday, May 11, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas.

"I am very proud of the 2018 division winners," said Col William P. Davis USMC (Ret), national executive director and CEO of the Young Marines. "Each winner radiates qualities of leadership, self-confidence, and good citizenship. In addition, each lives a healthy drug free lifestyle which is a cornerstone of the Young Marines. It will be quite a challenge to select just one as the National Young Marine of the Year."

About the Young Marines

The Young Marines is a national non-profit 501c (3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline, so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Since the Young Marines' humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to over 270 units with 9,000 youth and 2,600 adult volunteers in 40 states, the District of Columbia, Japan and affiliates in a host of other countries.

For more information, visit the website at: