There are 314,000 cadets in more than 1,700 JROTC programs across the country. Many of those cadets, including some of the young men and women Kok captures in her book “Cadets” (Netherlight, 2013), go on to serve in the armed forces, but a better sense of citizenship — not recruitment — is the goal of the program.
Though they can cut quite imposing figures in their uniforms, ultimately, Kok’s cadets are not simply made out to be miniature warriors. Rather, her frequently unguarded, often humorous photographs are primarily a look at the lives of teenagers — prone to the same joys and growing pains as young people anywhere else in the world.
“‘Cadets’ is not only about kids in uniform or the influence of the military. It is also about American small-town daily life, traditions, culture, relationships, the importance of family, community and team work,” Kok said via e-mail.