At the weekend, James (16) had the exciting opportunity to represent Scotland for the Army Cadets in their Cross Country running competition.
James has been a regular at Army Cadets since the summer of 2013. Right from when he first joined he has taken the discipline of the cadets seriously, but in the last year he has been even more determined to attend as often as he possibly can, to volunteer for as many extra events as he is able to with his other commitments, and basically just to behave and do as much as possible to help him gain a promotion.
One requirement of his military discipline that I highly approve of is to wash and iron his own uniform!
As well as the chance to run for his country, James has had other great opportunities with the Cadets. Like attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo last August with the Military Police, learning First Aid, and working towards the Duke of Edinburgh award (DofE). James completed the expedition for the Bronze level of Dof E with the cadets last Autumn and is now working on his 6 months volunteering and physical.
Cadets meet two evenings a week, and the cadets have the option to attend 4 local weekend camps a year and a two week annual camp down south in the summer. Attending the camps is optional but the cadets do miss out on some extra things like shooting practice and field craft if they don't go, and they need to gain the experience in order to work their way up the rankings.
There are also some optional sporting extras and it was through this that James took part in the Cross Country competition.
Last autumn he took part in the Scottish Cross Country competition. Those who finished in the first four positions of that race qualified to represent Scotland in last weekend's competition. James finished fourth in the qualifying race.
James has asthma, and when he was younger he suffered quite badly with it, needing hospitalised a couple of times in early primary school. He now seems to be growing out of it and has it very well managed. To see him running long distances like he does now is something we could never have imagined when he was much younger.
He doesn't attend any running clubs and so James voluntarily kept up his running training on his own. Nearly every morning before school, right through the cold, dark winter mornings, he would go out for a run at 6:30am, and be back home in the shower before his brothers were even out of their beds! He never needed anyone to get him out of bed in order to go running and his discipline was admirable.
His commitment paid off, and at the National event he helped the Scottish team come 2nd overall. He came home with his silver medal, and even more importantly to him, his Scottish colours. Very few cadets in his company have their colours and they are only given to those cadets who have represented their country at something.
After all his healthy eating and training, he said that he wanted to slob out a bit once he was home on Saturday and so we had a treat of Krispy Kreme doughnuts - something we rarely buy - for him coming home.
Whenever he is away at camp, or just away for the night as he was this weekend, there are a couple of little people in the house who really miss him, They are always glad to have him home again. No one can read a Thomas story quite like your biggest brother!
James doesn't have any plans to join the regular army when he leaves school, although he still doesn't really know what he would like to do. He is a talented musician and artist and sees himself perhaps following one of these routes. He is especially leaning towards the idea of doing something with music - compostition, or music technology, or something similar.
But he appreciates the value of all that he is doing with the cadets, and all the life skills he is learning through them.
I would honestly recommend getting your sons, or daughters, involved in one of the cadet forces for that very reason. It's not about playing with guns and learning to fight as some people think. It's about building character - I know that sounds so clichéd but you know what I mean - and learning so many different skills that will be valuable in the future workplace. Far more valuable than a lot of what they have to learn at school!
If you want to find out more about the Army Cadets you can do so here.