Cadet Serves as Virginia Toys for Tots Youth Ambassador
Turns out Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the North Pole elves aren’t necessarily the busiest people in the world during the holidays after all.
Instead, one leading candidate for that distinction is Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Morgan Raymondson of the Virginia Wing’s Southside Composite Squadron. Here are some of the things that will keep Raymondson, a long-distance runner, on his toes in December:
● He’ll turn 17 on Dec. 27.
● His dad’s birthday is Dec. 29.
● He leads the local Toys for Tots campaign and involves his fellow Civil Air Patrol cadets in the program.
● Oh, and the family squeezes in Christmas between birthdays.
Effort and commitment are required to make sure everything gets done, but the family is up to it, said the cadet’s father, Jack Raymondson.
“We’ve always tried to make it an exceptionally big deal,” he said.
Raymondson’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. He was featured in a television news segment that included the chief of staff for the Virginia Wing, Lt. Col. Michael Girardi, who called him a “stellar cadet.”
Girardi noted how Morgan had gotten other cadets engaged in Toys for Tots. “He just champions the program and is a great role model for it,” Girardi said, and he “couldn’t think of a better cadet for it.”
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tyler Nessen also was interviewed for the news segment. He talked about how Raymondson’s service inspired others to pitch in, too. “It’s a community effort to get these toys out,” Nessen said, “and everything he has done definitely helps out.”
Raymondson was recognized for his efforts by being named Virginia Youth Ambassador for Toys for Tots from September 2023- September 2024.
He started volunteering with Toys on Tots, sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserve, when he was 9. His interest isn’t surprising: His dad is a former Marine and worked with the Toys for Tots campaign, too.
A rightfully proud father, Jack Raymondson said his son has totaled more than 100 hours of service to Toys for Tots, and he and other cadets have collected over 3,000 toys for the program.
The younger Raymondson isn’t concerned with perks like being cited in a newscast or being honored as Toys for Tots Youth Ambassador for Virginia. He does what he does out of the goodness of his heart.
“It’s just being able to make a difference in the lives of the children I help,” he said.
Serving with Civil Air Patrol and heading up the local Toys for Tots campaign are just a couple of things that keep Raymondson busy. He’s a junior at James River High School, where he is a member of varsity crew, varsity air rifle, and the National Honor Society; runs cross country; and participates in peer tutoring and peer counseling.
He joined CAP almost two years ago when he was 15 and has already made quite an impact.
“I joined because I felt it would be a good leadership experience, as well as a way to give to my community,” Raymondson said.
He’s a member of the South Side squadron’s ground team and previously was cadet noncommissioned officer for Great Start training, for recruiting and retention, and for the color guard.
Military service is in Raymondson’s blood, likely inherited from his father. Even his involvement with Toys for Tots keeps him close to the military.
“Through Toys for Tots, I most recently attended the Marine Corps Marathon Kids Run at the Pentagon,” he said.
And in the near future he will be visiting Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin with the CEO of the Toys for Tots Foundation, retired Marine Lt. Gen. James Laster.
Morgan also volunteers with American Legion Post 354, providing service like helping out on cleanup days. And he volunteers with Wreaths Across America, which places wreaths on the graves of veterans every year. This year’s national event will be on Dec. 16 still another December activity.
He also finds time to assist with Tech For Troops (T4T), an organization dedicated “to empowering veterans and their family with computers, skills, and information technology (IT) work force training.”
Tech for Troops chief executive officer Mark Casper is another person featured in the news video about Raymondson. Casper raves about the cadet’s leadership abilities and his desire to serve others.
“It’s not about him,” Casper said. “But it’s about the community and those that he can help.”
Raymondson is in the process of applying for the U.S. Naval Academy, where he has participated in two summer camps. He has been a member of Naval Junior ROTC at his high school for three years and is part of the drill team, leading the Raiders Team and Honor Guard, as well as holding the unit staff positions of assistant operations officer, community service officer, and training officer.
In about a year he will be ready to submit his application and paperwork to U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va. If accepted into the Naval Academy, Raymondson wants to study political science and economics. He’s also interested in Naval Special Warfare and Marine Corps Intelligence as career paths.
Making a difference in the world is in his blood, too. And that’s one of the reasons he was drawn to Civil Air Patrol. He learned about CAP from his older brother, Xavier, now a junior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington Hills, Virginia.
That was before COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and everything shut down, including CAP activities. When the local squadron reopened Raymondson was ready to sign up. He’s interested in emergency services and aerospace education and also is looking into scholarship opportunities to earn his private pilot certificate.
At the heart of everything Raymondson does is his big heart. That shows in everything he volunteers for — helping veterans, helping children, helping his classmates by tutoring, and serving as a great role model.
At the end of the news video featuring his involvement with Toys for Tots, he made a remark that pretty well sums up his outlook on life:
“Do what you can while you can, and make sure when you look back, you know you did what you could.”
This profile of Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Morgan Raymondson is 16th in a regular series of articles showcasing how CAP and its members make an impact throughout the nation.