Future Soldiers Take Oath of Enlistment at the Kentucky Derby
Nashville Army Recruiting Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ryan M. McCabe administers the oath of enlistment to 40 Future Soldiers at Churchill Downs prior to the 139th Kentucky Derby on May 4.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 4, 2013) -- Forty Future Soldiers braved the rain, wind and unseasonably cold temperatures May 4 to participate in a swearing-in ceremony prior to the 139th running of Kentucky Derby at Louisville's Churchill Downs.

The Future Soldiers, from central and eastern Kentucky and southern Indiana, were sworn in by Lt. Col. Ryan M. McCabe, commander of the Nashville Army Recruiting Battalion.

Future Soldier Austin Messersmith, a Louisville native, is slated to enter the Army's special operations community.

"It's a one-time experience," Messersmith said. "I will never get to be a part of something like this ever again."

Unlike many of his counterparts, Messersmith has attended the Kentucky Derby in the past, but said being at the race this year representing the Army made this experience unique.

"I've been here a few times, but never got to experience the stuff I did today. It's great being part of the Army camaraderie and to see how the crowd looks at you as you walk through."

Actor Anthony Anderson, best known for his role in the NBC-TV show "Law & Order," gave the young Future Soldiers a thumbs up and shouted, "Army Strong!" as he walked by.

The early afternoon ceremony culminated a busy day for the young men and women. They marched through the rain to the staging area and got to witness celebrities ranging from country music singer Miranda Lambert, basketball greats Julius Erving and Scottie Pippen, actress Jane Seymour and Kentucky Gov. Steve BeShear walk the red carpet in front of them.

The most popular celebrity was Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer from Greensburg, Ky., who is the nation's youngest living Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in 2009 while serving in Afghanistan.

Mollie Knight, a Future Soldier from the Elizabethtown, Ky., Company, said meeting Meyer was the highlight of her visit. She will enter the Army later this month to serve as a dental technician after graduating from Fort Knox, Ky., High School.

After getting their picture taken on the red carpet, the Future Soldiers marched down to the infield area.

The first Future Soldier onto the field was Amanda Hodgson, who after graduating from Jeffersonville, Ind., High School later this month will enter the Army to serve in the military police.

"My mother told me she's never been prouder of any of her children than she is today," Hodgson said. "I can't wait to go home and see the pride in her face."

As Hodgson and her fellow Future Soldiers marched onto the infield area in front of the track, they received a warm welcome from many in the crowd who got to their feet and applauded as McCabe lead the Future Soldiers in their oath of enlistment.

"Ladies and gentlemen, 2013 marks the 40th Anniversary of the all-volunteer force," McCabe said. "Today, these 40 young men and women will take their oath of enlistment on one of the greatest days in sports."

After the ceremony, the Future Soldiers were once again greeted by well wishers who cheered as they marched off the field, one of whom was Rob King, a 13-year veteran, who's now the director of security for Churchill Downs. He expressed an emotional thank you, thanked them for braving the bad weather to take part in the ceremony and wished them good luck in their military careers.

"It means the world to me," King said. "I still get choked up and get a lump in my throat when I see these young people taking an oath to serve their country."

More than 150,000 attended this year's race. Jockey Joel Rosario rode the Derby winner, Orb, to victory. Horse and jockey now go forward to compete for horse racing's Triple Crown.

Page last updated Tue May 7th, 2013 at 09:01