FARMINGTON — Members of the Aztec High School Army JROTC have enjoyed the effort and hours one parental volunteer, lovingly referred to as "Aunt Peggy," has put into the program.

Peggy Sandoval McMurry has been volunteering for the JROTC program since her son Alexander joined two years ago as a freshman. McMurry said Alexander has had his mind focused on joining the armed services since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"From that day forward, he's been military-bound," McMurry said. "I haven't been able to convince him otherwise - it's his dream. I'm going to back him up and support him."

Peggy Sandoval McMurry is a parental volunteer for the Aztec High School Army JROTC program.
Peggy Sandoval McMurry is a parental volunteer for the Aztec High School Army JROTC program. (Jon Austria The Daily Times)

Col. Berris Samples described McMurry as a surrogate mother or big sister to the cadets, helping to chaperone trips across the country and helping out with the group's work at the Aztec Ruins.

"She was available to the cadets to encourage them and be a role model," Samples said. "She's a special person. When you don't have to get paid to care for people and be with them, it shows she does it from the heart. She has a special quality."

McMurry has volunteered as sponsor and adult chaperone for the color guard, accompanying them to a Colorado Rockies baseball game two years in a row to present the national colors. Other activities include chaperoning summer adventure training, helping cadets travel back and forth for training with the New Mexico National Guard in Santa Fe and helping the cadets with their annual fundraiser to pay for new uniforms and equipment.

Most notable is her work with the cadets and the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps at the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Recent Aztec High School graduate Shenikaah Sandoval said the cadets have partnered with the Corps on upkeep of the grounds where there are ancient Puebloan structures.

"She spends a lot of time at the Aztec Ruins, helping by supervising, and she'll help us with pulling weeds," Sandoval said. "She's not just standing around, she's actually working."

Samples said McMurry helps the cadets with repairs and building new equipment around the grounds of the ruins.

"We do staining, we built a picnic shelter right there alongside (the cadets)," Samples said. "We do shoveling, mixing concrete in the yard with them. Not only is she seen working on the job as a trainer, she has volunteered a lot of hours."

McMurry said she enjoys being a role model for the cadets, letting them know she is available if they need someone to talk to.

"I just like kids and they like me," McMurry said. "I enjoy them, I make them laugh, they make me laugh, just to be a positive encouragement behind them."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.