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Young Marines program looks for a few good kids

Sal Blydenburgh is looking for a few good youngsters in Jackson County.

He figures that would include just about everyone from 8 to 18.

I've never met a bad kid, said the Grants Pass resident. But a lot of them need a little help. Our belief is that kids can't respect someone else until they respect themselves.

Blydenburgh is leading an effort to establish a Young Marines program in Jackson County like the one he helped organize in Josephine County three years ago. Anyone from 8 to 18 is encouraged to apply.

Patterned after the U.S. Marine Corps, the program seeks to instill respect, responsibility and reliability in local youth. Founded by the Marine Corps League in 1958, it promotes a healthy and drug-free lifestyle.

The goal is to launch basic training Nov. 2 with at least 35 youngsters.

While the basic training will not be as tough as that experienced by adult recruits, it continues for 12 Saturdays with the recruits training six hours each week, Blydenburgh said.

There is no yelling, no swearing, no touching the kids whatsoever, Blydenburgh said. And we don't teach kids about guns. This is a coalition between the military and civilian world.

Blydenburgh, 59, knows about the former: He spent four years in the Corps, getting out as a corporal in 1965. Now a painting contractor with five children, he has a son who is a staff sergeant in the Young Marines program in Josephine County.

The program teaches youngsters how to work with others as well as how to discipline themselves to accomplish a task, said Blydenburgh, who will serve as the executive officer for the new group.

Kids take a pledge when they enter, he said, noting that includes pledging to be drug-free. This is really their first legal commitment to society.

The instructors are all required to have FBI background checks. When young female marines are involved in training, female instructors will be present at all times.

The national success rate for the program has been over 90 percent, Blydenburgh said.

Our first graduate from this unit (in Josephine County) just turned 18 and is a candidate for the Naval Academy, he said.

Although Blydenburgh is a former Marine, he said the program doesn't push the Corps.

Our belief is that all the services are good, he said.

The cost for each child to go through the program is &

36;175 for the first year with &

36;65 due at the time of registration. After the first year, the annual cost drops to &

36;50.

Parents interested in the program are invited to an organizational meeting scheduled for Oct. 19 in Medford.

Parents may contact Blydenburgh or Tammy rns in Grants Pass at 541-479-6925 or Anne Green in Medford at 773-5198 in the evenings.

Blydenburgh also can be reached by e-mail at coburgh@hotmail.com

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at