Seymour Young Marines wins Division 5 Unit of the Year

Seymour Young Marines was named Division 5 Unit of the Year on Jan. 13, the first time in 22 years.

In the Young Marines program, there are 224 units, and 38 of those units are in Division 5.

Young Marines is a national not-for-profit youth program for boys and girls age 8 through high school graduation focused on leadership, citizenship through community service, self-discipline and living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

“This last year has been absolutely incredible. These kids and staff have put in a crazy amount of work,” said Shawn Riley, unit commander for Seymour Young Marines.

In 2022, Seymour Young Marines consisted of 26 Young Marines, 22 recruits and 11 adult volunteers. As a unit, the staff and the kids gave a total of 3,690 hours of community service and 144 drug demand reduction hours.

In the past year, the organization moved from Columbus into the upstairs portion of Seymour Decorating Center on South Chestnut Street, participated in two parades, conducted two encampments and took 11 of the kids to a regional encampment in Michigan.

Since moving from Columbus to Seymour, the Young Marines have grown the number active youth in the program from 19 to 40 kids last spring.

Riley has been a member of the Seymour Young Marines, formerly known as Columbus Young Marines, for 18 of the 22 years. Riley started in the program when he was 10. After he graduated from high school, he joined the staff under his father, Scott Riley, who was the unit commander at the time. He also joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at the same time.

“I can’t say enough how hard these kids have worked to earn the Division 5 Unit of the Year award. The excitement and passion these kids show up with every Saturday is inspiring,” Riley said.

Besides participating in community service projects and encampments, the Young Marines conduct various activities to help members learn different skills and become involved in the community.

The Seymour Young Marines have participated in many color guard events, including Indy Fuel hockey games and Indianapolis Colts full field flag experience. The youth also go through heavily supervised marksman shooting training learning how to properly use and stay safe around firearms, and they go through swim qualifications and learn the basics of swimming.

The kids also learn about drug demand reduction, teaching them about the effects of drugs and how to stay away from them, field skills, such as building shelters and navigation, and the basics of drills.

Each kid in the program will receive a ribbon for being the Division Unit of the Year and also receive a banner to place on their guidon.

“They have put in so much time in and outside of drill, and I cannot wait to hand each one of them their well-deserved ribbons,” Riley said.

Riley currently looks forward to hearing a decision on who will be named the National Unit of the Year in the spring.

With the amount of progress the local unit has been through in the past year, Riley thanked Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Robison for showing their support throughout the year. Both are writing letters of support in hopes of Seymour Young Marines receiving National Unit of the Year.

“They have shown support by coming to multiple events, getting us opportunities and helping us get off the ground here in Seymour. You both have been a great support to the Seymour Young Marines,” Riley said.

Signups are twice a year, and Young Marines currently is accepting online applications first. The first recruit session runs around 13 weeks and costs $165 for the recruit registration, which includes the entire uniform and all other registration costs. Every session after that is $50, and a physical must be done before the first drill Feb. 25.

Signups for the spring session will be at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 4; 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8; and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 11.