Venice, Fla. -
Cadet Captain Justin McDonald, 16, of Punta Gorda, was recently recognized at a special promotion ceremony at the Venice Cadet Squadron for achieving one of the most prestigious honors that a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol can earn - the Amelia Earhart Award. The Earhart Award marks completion of Phase III of the CAP Cadet Program, recognizing sustained excellence in all four areas of cadet life: leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. Further, Earhart Award cadets must have passed comprehensive examinations on leadership and aerospace topics. Only 5% of cadets have earned this award since its inception in 1964. With this award, McDonald received a promotion to the grade of cadet captain.
The Florida Wing Commander, Col. Luis Garcia, and the Group 5 Commander, Lt. Col. Milton “Jim” Kaletta, were guests of honor at the Venice Cadet Squadron. Also in attendance were C/Capt. McDonald’s fellow squadron members, Group 5 members from SRQ, SLA and Charlotte County squadrons, as well as friends and family, to watch as he was presented with the Earhart Award by the Wing Commander. During the presentation, Colonel Garcia addressed C/Capt. McDonald and emphasized the duty now to “pass on the knowledge from earning this award and to mentor other cadets as well as senior members.”
McDonald has been an active member of the Civil Air Patrol since January 2016 and currently serves as the Venice Cadet Squadron’s Cadet Commander, as well as, the Group 5 Cadet Advisory Council Chair. In his CAP career, McDonald has served as cadet cadre in two summer encampments, graduated from the Florida Leadership Academy Cadet Commander Course, attended Florida Emergency Services Academy earning Ground Team Member 1 and UDF certifications, and most notably survived the Hawk Mountain Ranger School earning Ranger 1st Class. McDonald has been actively involved with many local CAP activities and is currently participating in flight training in a CAP aircraft working to earn his private pilot license. He aspires to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and later serve his country as a helicopter pilot in the United States Army.
The Amelia Earhart Award honors the late Amelia Earhart, aviatrix, advocate, and pioneer, who set many records for women aviators in aviation’s infancy, and then disappeared in 1937 near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean while trying to circumnavigate the world in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra. Her disappearance is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. “The stars seemed near enough to touch, and never before have I seen so many”, she said after one of her record-setting flights, “I always believed the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, but I was sure of it that night.”