Young Patriots Heralded for their Service Ahead

Dozens of Delaware high school seniors were celebrated for their decision to serve our country last week at the 7th annual High School Enlistee Recognition Ceremony. Several distinguished guests spoke to the graduates – heading to careers in the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Army – offering praise, gratitude, and words of encouragement for enlistees as well as their parents.

The dinner celebration took place at the Cavaliers Country Club in Newark on May 23rd.

Brigadier General Mike Berry of the Delaware National Guard reminded the young adults that the early days in uniform will be tough, challenging, and test their strength and commitment. He shared the value of his experiences as a soldier, husband of a military spouse, and as a father of a son currently serving. “You will be tired, stressed, angry and frustrated. You will be social media-deprived, comfort foods will be non-existent, and your comfort zone will be eliminated,” said Berry.

However, he added that if the new enlistees give 100% in every task and challenge they face, their opportunities will be limitless. “I promise that you will look back at what you have accomplished and be amazed. When you climb that tower, complete a battalion road march, or qualify expert on your assigned weapons, you will experience the taste of adrenaline and ask for more. And you will create friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Larence Kirby, the Executive Director of the Delaware Commission for Veterans Affairs, related the patriotism of his father and how his love of country inspired him to join the Air Force and complete 30 years of service.  His assignments, education and experiences continue to inspire him to lead an organization that cares for veterans statewide. He expressed gratitude to the families that provided an environment in which the enlistees were motivated to serve their nation.

“Thank you for planting a seed of service into these great minds,” said Kirby. “Their commitment to our colors is the beacon of light needed to guide our nation toward a positive future.”

Tim Furlong has served as the emcee since the event began seven years ago. The Delaware Bureau Reporter for NBC 10, Furlong added levity to the occasion while expressing his own sincere appreciation for the student enlistees and their willingness to serve their country. He was particularly moved this year as one of the enlistees was graduating from his Alma Mater, Salesianum.

The ‘Our Community Salutes’ (OCS) high school enlistee recognition program began in New Jersey 10 years ago. Frustrated that his school was not recognizing those grads who were joining the military, a board member formed a committee and conducted the first event in 2009.  The Delaware Chapter, Association of the U.S. Army heard of his efforts and conducted the first OCS Delaware event in 2012.  OCS events are now in over 44 communities around the nation. The OCS motto is, “The First to Say, Thank You.”  

As the enlistees begin their journey, Colonel Gary Dawson, U.S. Army (retired) told guests at the dinner that many will say, ‘thanks for your service.’ He urged the attendees to remember this evening when family, friends and members of the community came together as the first to say, ‘Thank you.’

Photos by Karen Brooks

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