This season will be my third year as a band member. I will be the assistant squad leader of H row. In my 22 years on this Earth, I have never met a kinder, more humble person than Jonathan Waters. From the first day I met Jon Waters, I knew I was in a safe environment managed by one of the greatest, if not the greatest person the university has ever had the pleasure of employing.
I began in athletic band in the spring of 2012. Through his guidance and assurance, and professionalism, I was able to improve as a member of the band and contribute to the band, the university, and the community. He taught me so much and I could not have asked for a better person to be under the direction of.
When I made the marching band, Jon Waters immediately welcomed all first year members with open arms. Not once did I feel unsafe. He put in place rules that all rows would live and operate by to ensure the safety of all members.
As a first year member, I was given a nickname and I was proud of that nickname. It was actually one of the nicknames listed in the initial investigative report. I have never once found it to be offensive or rude. I embraced the name as my own. I was asked to perform a "trick". My squad leaders asked me if I wanted to perform a song and, being a lover of music, I immediately said yes. I wrote my own song and loved performing it. I wish I could have performed it more! That being said, my squad leaders made it clear from the beginning that anything we did not wish to partake in, we did not have to.
Midnight ramp, my rookie "trick", my nickname, and the other things asked of me, I agreed to do all. I loved what they represented and I wasn't just desperate for acceptance. That had already happened when I made the band. There was nothing I had to do to win the respect of the rest of the band. I was respected and treated well. I never felt unsafe or harassed by any means.
My second year went just like my first but this time, I had younger members to take care of. Any time they expressed concern with anything, we took control of the situation and worked it out. If they had any questions, we answered them, and if they didn't want to do something, they didn't do it. We became a family last year, as a row, and not a single person wanted to leave the band due to any "hazing", "harassment", or anything else mentioned in that report.
This year, I was chosen as a squad leader of H row. I am so proud to have been selected by Jon Waters. I cannot remember a moment in my life when I was happier. I am an Eagle Scout, I have a degree from Ohio State, and I have won many awards and competitions with several musical groups I am a part of. And being chosen as a squad leader is the number one thing on my list of greatest achievements. I will forever hold that dear to my heart. But this position is not about me.
Being a squad leader is about what Jon Waters preached and practiced: servant leadership, respect, and leading by example. Jon was never afraid to help somebody, tell the truth, or fix something himself. He taught us all so many lessons that we can use in band, in school, and in life. Without Jon, I would not be the person I am today. And I'd like to think that person is pretty incredible.
I am a masters student at Ohio State, having received my bachelors degree in city and regional planning; I am a dedicated member of Kappa Kappa Psi, national honorary fraternity for bandsmen; I was a brother of Pi Kappa Alpha, one of the most successful Greek fraternities on Ohio State's campus; I am the secretary of the A Cappella group, Buck That!, we are a group of college men that sing for competitions, charity, community, and university events; I graduated with honors and Cum Laude; I hold a wonderful internship position with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and previously the City of Columbus; and I am actively working to improve others lives by being a squad leader in the Ohio State University Marching Band, where I teach others skills in band and life through my actions and words.
I am not a sexualized, homophobic, antisemetic, racist, sexist, crazed college student like the university's report made it seem like.
I am a hardworking, dedicated, talented, mature, kind, trustworthy, chivalrous, active student. And this would not be the case had I not tried out for the marching band in 2012. And the only reason I have changed to be this person is because of the man the university recently fired.
I will always stand for that man and his words and actions. He has changed my life for the better just as hundreds, if not thousands of other students.
Please take the time to learn the true facts about who Jonathan Waters and the Ohio State University Marching Band are. I'm sure you will learn we are exactly who you've seen on YouTube and the international news the past two years.
God Bless and Go Bucks,
John Anthony Flesher