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Cadets honored as Distinguished Military Graduates and Distinguished Military Students

March 1, 2021

Derek Whitmore and Garrett Wilson have worked tirelessly in the Corps of Cadets during their four years at the University of North Georgia (UNG). From a litany of Ranger Challenge successes to leadership in Scabbard and Blade, a military honor society, the roommates excelled on a consistent basis.

Now, their accomplishments will be noted for life in their Army record, as each has earned the title of Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG) from U.S. Army Cadet Command. Whitmore and Wilson lead UNG's DMG honorees as the two who placed in the top 10% of Army ROTC graduates nationally. Both are scheduled to graduate this May.

DMGs finish in the top 20% of Army graduates on the national Order of Merit List by achieving superior grade-point averages, strong performance in the Army Combat Fitness Test, and proving their worth as exceptional leaders in their college ROTC training.

UNG's other DMGs include: Ryan D. Abrahams, 2nd Lt. James C. Heriot, Zachary A. Lewis, 2nd Lt. Jared H. Pate, Nikulaus G. Pujals, Karch R. Swaylik, and 2nd Lt. William H. Walters.

Whitmore, a Newnan, Georgia, native pursuing a degree in criminal justice, views the recognition as a way to pay back UNG graduates from previous decades who inspired him.

"It makes me feel like I'm doing my part and following their footsteps," said Whitmore, who will commission in the infantry branch.

Wilson, a Lawrenceville, Georgia, native pursuing a degree in marketing with a sales concentration, noted that the camaraderie and competition elements boosted both roommates.

"It was great to work so closely with him. He knows how to push you, and hopefully I did a little bit of the same for him," Wilson said. "Whenever I could think of slacking off, I would look across the room and see Derek doing something to better himself."

UNG also had 24 Distinguished Military Students (DMS) for 2020-21. That list was determined by Col. Joshua Wright, UNG's professor of military science. To be selected, a cadet must be in the upper half of the academic class, the upper third of the ROTC class, and the upper third of UNG's Order of Merit List. All nine DMGs were also on the DMS list.

The other DMS honorees include: Holden J. Armstrong, Makayla L. Chastain, Lauden J. Ernst, 2nd Lt. Samantha D. Ethridge, Alex D. Fernandez, Morgan A. Gaynor, Desmond C. Henderson, Michael J. Laun, 2nd Lt. Zachary M. Rodriguez, 2nd Lt. Thomas R. Schwind, Roderick A. Selman, Joshua Shackelford, Eva L. Sykes, Brandon K. Weiss, and Penda K. Welcher.

"We are proud of both our DMG and DMS cadets," Wright said. "They have shown great leadership both in the corps and in the classroom. These honors are well-earned."

Eva Sykes, a senior from Las Vegas, Nevada, pursuing a degree in kinesiology with a health and fitness concentration, said "it's an awesome and humbling feeling" to be a DMS. Sykes, who is scheduled to commission this August in the armor branch of the Army, is hopeful her example inspires other women in the Corps of Cadets.

"I want to provide women of the Corps of Cadets with one of many great examples that were left for me to follow: to persevere," Sykes said. "My mentor showed me that the only limits are the ones people place on themselves. Encouraging more individuals to show their abilities will make a great impact on the development of others for years to come."

While all of these awards for cadets carry great meaning, Wilson is already looking ahead to his Army career.

"It's a great recognition. It's nowhere near the end. It's the recognition of a strong foundation, and the real work is ahead," Wilson said. "I can't wait to take what I've learned from mentors in the Corps of Cadets and apply it to my future."

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