It was The Military Order of the World War and dates back to the Great War, World War I.

In 1919, General of the Armies John J. “Black Jack” Pershing had a plan for a fraternity of American military officers when their active- duty service was over after that war. This would, history says, be a focus for those officers to continue serving their country.

In 1945 and because of World War II, the organization’s name was pluralized to The Military Order of the World Wars, and today it has retired or former military officers from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq war and peacetime service.

The mission remains: “It is nobler to serve than to be served.” Chapters nationwide have their own service projects, a number including projects and scholarships for young people.

For local MOWW members, the focus is “Building Informed Citizen Leaders” through the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Youth Leadership Foundation. Celebrating its 2021 leadership conference, which drew 68 students entering 12th grade, MOWW members and families met for dinner at Patty Jewett Golf Course on Sept. 21.

Since 1993, students with demonstrated leadership potential are recommended by high school guidance counselors or Junior ROTC. For five days, they live on a college campus during the summer. They study “leadership and ethics,” free enterprise, school and community, “patriotism and leadership,” and current hot topics such as cybersecurity.

The conference opens with a teen’s heart stopper, the adults learned: There are no cellphones. As conference director Steve Shambach explained, the students “interact face to face.” Participant Griffin Greenwood called the “no cellphones a real detox” but agreed that it had helped as minds were opened and students learned “ways of leadership.” Participants didn’t know each other and this summer the 68 were from 27 high schools from Denver to Pueblo and east to west, said Shambach. They “learn by doing” through teamwork exercises.

Participants receive full scholarships. It is estimated that as COVID restrictions lift, there could be 100 participants each summer.

For information about Rocky Mountain Youth Leadership Foundation, go to rmylf.org.

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