On Monday evenings most weeks I am down at the Sea Cadet unit in Shirley: TS Gamecock. The unit has about a dozen adult staff members and officers, around 40 cadets and junior cadets. Sea Cadets are national voluntary uniformed youth organization affiliated to the Royal Navy. Four years ago our friend Neil asked if I would become the unit chaplain. While the bureaucracy of formally being recognized as the padre on a national level hasn’t been a smooth road and still isn’t sorted, the unit still sees me in this role. Last year I spoke at the Trafalgar Day parade in Solihull a regional event that is akin to Remembrance Day services.
Anyway, one of the aspects of the unit that took me a while to figure out (apart from traditions and marching and such that are foreign to a civilian like me!) is the sense of family the unit has. While there is the ‘business’ of the evening parades and training which takes place, it is before and particularly after where staff and officers chat, converse, discuss training, and plan for the future. I didn’t understand this at first. Once I figured this out, and stayed afterwards in the wardroom to visit, getting to know everyone was much easier.
At the last moment, without any preparation, I was called on to teach two of the values of the Sea Cadets last night (I am writing this a day late): Respect and Loyalty. Not terribly exciting topics to the cadets, I must say, who are aged 14 – 17. Yet I was struck, myself, how without these two values, human relationships struggle and break and fragment. Even amongst groups with less than positive ambitions such as gangs these values are embraced.
So today, I am thankful for organizations like the Sea Cadets who provide a supportive and encouraging environment for youth to learn and make mistakes and fall upwards and still be cared for. Hats off for the local unit TS Gamecock and the staff and officers and the sacrifices they make for the youth who make up the unit.