KNOXVILLE - A group called the Young Marines marched among local war heroes in Knoxville's 91st Veterans Day parade on Friday.
Members of the group aren't old enough to enlist in the Marine Corps, but members of the Young Marines learn some of the same values.
"Our core values for the Young Marines are discipline, teamwork, leadership and those are things we try to teach these kids," Kathy Winters said.
Winters' grandson went through the program and her husband is the unit commander.
The group of 37 Young Marines in the Lt. Alexander Bonnyman chapter is made up of 8 to 18-year-olds from five East Tennessee school districts. They are part of a larger national program with a goal of teaching our youngest citizens to be some of our best citizens.
"You can't demoralize the values of the Young Marines and be a Young Marine," Tommy Whaley said.
Whaley is 15 years old and close to completing his second year in the program.
"You can learn a lot from it," Whaley said. "I've personally learned to be a better role model, person and leader."
The group is not a recruitment program, but it has inspired young marines like Whaley to pursue careers in the military.
"I just want to join the Marines," Whaley said. "It's just something I want to do."
For Whaley and the rest of his unit, marching in the parade served as a reminder of the good that lies within our country even during divisive times.
"It's kind of emotional when you see thousands of people on the sidewalk and you're marching and it's kind of like...people aren't all that bad," Whaley said.
The U.S. Marine Corps celebrated its 241st birthday on Thursday.
(© 2017 WBIR)