During high school graduation season, many schools celebrate the colleges their students plan to attend. But some are also honoring graduates who decided to enlist in the military.
New York’s Windsor Central High School is one of those schools. “I think it’s great for the ceremony to happen because there is not a lot of representation in the schools,” said Erin Evanitsky, a U.S. Army recruit. “But here, this is what it’s all about. It’s completely for us.”
Evanitsky will graduate second in her class. Instead of heading to college, she enlisted in the Army, and plans to become a veterinarian.
“You’d get hands-on job training in the Army,” she said, adding “and then afterwards, they can pay for your schooling with the GI Bill and I can end up being a vet.”
Dominic Mastronardi said he decided to join the U.S. Marines because “college and all that schoolwork just doesn’t really fit me. I can’t really stay at a desk job, I have to be out somewhere doing something getting my hands dirty.”
Calliou Olsen is also a U.S. Marines recruit. “I chose the Marines because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be a part of a brotherhood,” he said. “I just felt like I wanted to serve something bigger than myself.”
“Our Community Salutes,” a group that’s honored high schoolers heading into uniform for a decade, has performed more than 30 of these graduation celebrations in over 20 states this year.
“I hear from veterans all the time: ‘well they never did this for me when I went into service,’ said Gene Clark, director of the group. “And my response is, ‘no, they didn’t do it when I went into the service either, but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if they had?'”
Jenna Murdock represents the fourth generation of her family to join the Navy – but she’s the first to be celebrated by her community for doing so. “It’s kind of a family legacy almost,” she said. “It’s always been an interest of mine and it seems like it just kind of made sense to join the Navy.”
Murdock wants to become a physical therapist one day, and plans to pay for that education using the GI Bill.