MANY youngsters leave the Army Cadets as better people.
However, there are relatively few you could say have that effect on the organisation itself.
The Grangemouth detach-ment has had just such a youngster in its ranks for the last four years in the shape of 18-year-old Michael Martin, who has autism.
Due to his age, his time with the organisation is sadly coming to an end, but it has undoubtedly been well spent.
And, if you ask him what he thinks about the group you will always get the same simple, and very direct, reply: “I love the cadets.”
The Reddingmuirhead youngster’s happy association with the cadets began in 2007, but it was younger brother Jack who looked more likely to join up.
Mum Julie (46) explained: “We took Michael down with us when Jack was going. He said he’d like to join too, but I thought he wouldn’t be able to because of his autism. However, Captain Baff said to give it a go.”
Ironically, Jack left the cadets after a year, but Michael served for the next four years – loving every single minute.
It was a steep learning curve for detachment commander Captain John Baff, who initially knew very little about autism.
He said: “He is the first autistic cadet we’ve ever had, but I hope he won’t be the last. We thought that, as a youth organisation, we shouldn’t turn any young person away.
“When he has the uniform on he is just another cadet – you cannot tell he has autism.
“He has marched in gala days and in Armistice Day parades.
“It has opened my eyes and the eyes of the other cadets to see what Michael is capable of achieving – he never gives up.
“It takes him a little longer to do things like drill and map and compass, but he gets there in the end.
“He started to pick up the shooting after we changed the wording a little – we were telling him to aim at the black square, but he didn’t start grasping it until we called it a little black box.’’
Michael’s parents hope he will cope when he finally leaves the cadets later this month.
Julie said: “I think it’s quite difficult for him to get the concept – he’s been doing this every Monday and Thursday for the last four years.
“We’re very grateful to Captain Baff and the cadets for giving him this opportunity.
‘‘It was a lot for them to take on.”
When he leaves after a special presentation ceremony on July 14, Michael will take with him many certificates and skills such first aid, shooting and field craft.
The polite, well-turned out young man will also leave a great example for all cadets through his perseverance and enthusiasm.