CALUMET TOWNSHIP - In order to keep the Elks 2012 Citizen of the Year a secret, members had to make slight revisions to their traditional Flag Day ceremony.
Otherwise, it would have been a dead giveaway to Calumet High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Instructor Maj. Michael Farley.
"What we've always done before is we had our Citizen of the Year award in a separate awards banquet and held it at the (Elks) lodge," Calumet Elks Lodge 404 Secretary Linda Hale said prior to the ceremony Thursday evening at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet. "I thought the only way to keep it a good surprise for him was to put it at the end of an event that he's committed to being in with his cadets."
Kelly Fosness/Daily Mining Gazette
Calumet High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Instructor Maj. Michael Farley receives an award from Calumet Elks Lodge 404 Secretary Linda Hale during a Flag Day ceremony at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet Thursday evening. Farley was selected the 2012 Elks Citizen of the Year.
More than 100 members and guests were in attendance to honor Farley with a round of applause and standing ovation while Hale read aloud the inscription on the award he received on behalf of the Elks.
"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others," she said. "One does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of their actions and the integrity of their intent. In the end, leaders are like eagles, they don't flock, you find them one at a time."
Prior to the awards ceremony Elks District Vice President Dave Sladek said each year the Elks select a citizen, not necessarily an Elks member, who has contributed in various ways to improving the community, shown leadership, has contributed voluntary service and demonstrates commitment to family.
"There's different criteria for who is chosen," he said. "It was an easy one (to pick) this year."
Farley, who has been involved with the Calumet JROTC program for 14 years, said it was a complete surprise for him.
"My first thought was that it's really not my effort that probably everybody recognizes ... it's the collective effort of me and the ROTC program," he said. "We work really hard in a lot of different areas of the community and in the school, and we together accomplish a lot."
Current and former cadets shared with attendees their thoughts on Farley's dedication to his students and the program as a whole.
"There's a lot of struggles that we go through and Maj. Farley was always there for us," former cadet Brandon Pelto said. "He was our father, our mentor ... I'd like to thank Maj. Farley for all of his dedication and all of his hard work that he does in the community."
JROTC cadet Dana Spelich prepared a speech in her instructor's honor, noting he should be selected "Citizen of the Decade" or "Citizen of the Generation" because one year is not enough to honor the ways he invests his time into the JROTC program.
Fellow cadet Kari Oja, who knew of Farley's selection for about a week, said it wasn't hard to keep the news under wraps.
"I'm good at keeping secrets," she said.
Farley said while the theme Thursday centered around Flag Day and patriotism, he said his cadets are really "out in front when it comes to recognizing our flag."
"It's not something they're doing once a year, they're doing it all the time," he said.