KENNEWICK -- Behind the cluster of ribbons and medals affixed to Jared Haeg's neat uniform stands a teen as proud as his father, a former Marine, about being named one of the top Young Marines in the nation this year.
The 17-year-old junior at Southridge High School recently learned of his selection of being the Division 6 honoree in a letter from the Young Marines headquarters in Washington, D.C. That puts him ahead of all other Young Marines in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Arizona and Utah.
He already has collected Young Marine of the Year honors for his unit, the Tri-City Young Marines, 2nd Battalion, and the state.
"This is very significant," said his father John Haeg, who noted that his son has been in the Young Marines in the Tri-Cities since he was 10.
Jared is one of about 32 youth in the area's Marines-sponsored youth program that's focused on building discipline, leadership and teamwork. It is part of the military's effort to fight a drug culture by instilling values to "make youth leaders for tomorrow," Jared said.
"I now represent all of the Young Marines. It feels great," Jared said.
In addition to being in the running for the national Young Marine of 2011, a decision that will come in May, Jared is looking forward to a trip with the other five divisions' top Young Marines as they take a trip to Guam and then go to participate in the 66th anniversary of the historic battle to claim Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
He said he is looking forward to helping conduct the memorial observance and meeting with Marines and Japanese veterans who were on Iwo Jima during the battle for control of the island.
Jared's father said his son has been a model Young Marine, eager to accept any assignment or leadership role.
"He was an honor recruit," John Haeg said, noting that his son is serious about continuing with the Marines.
"He wants an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and his goal is to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps," he said.
If Jared achieves his goal, that would put him a few notches above his father, whose 8 1/2 years of service were as an enlisted Marine.
In addition to a love for the Marines, the father and son share an interest in history, particularly World War II history.
John was in training as a volunteer for the D-Day paratrooper re-enactment until he was injured on a training jump.
And Jared obtained a speaking part for a feature film being done seven months ago by Portland Independent Films about the 82nd Airborne Division's Pathfinders and the D-Day invasion. The film, not yet released, is called Pathfinders in the Company of Strangers.