HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — High school seniors from across Central Texas gathered in the Harker Heights Public Library Activities Center May 5 in recognition of their decision to join a branch of the military after graduation.
Over 70 recruits were recognized at the event. The ceremony was sponsored by Our Community Salutes Central Texas.
The main speaker was retired Maj. Gen. Ken Cox, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army and vice president of OCS. Before retiring, Cox was a deputy commanding general at III Armored Corps and former engineer brigade commander at 1st Cavalry Division.
He explained the purpose for the ceremony was not only to recognize the young men and women enlistees, but to also recognize their families and recruiters.
“That’s what serving in our military is. It’s not about you, it’s about something much bigger than yourself,” Cox said. “You’re joining an organization that is willing to sacrifice themselves for the defense of their country.”
Various heads in the audience nodded at this statement, especially Fort Hood Soldiers who were in attendance to support their loved ones and future fellow servicemembers.
Following Cox, Jean Shine, president of OCS and previous civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, took to the podium to speak.
Shine shared the background of how events like these came to be. Four years ago, Shine reached out to a local recruiter to ask what they do for high school graduates joining the Armed Forces. The recruiter explained they didn’t do anything special.
“And I thought, “that’s my mission,’” Shine said. “I want to make sure that those students are recognized.”
Shine’s initiative paved the way for Central Texas to honor those enlisting. She soon reached out to Congressman John Carter who quickly became the first supporter of her endeavor.
“So on his behalf, we’ll be presenting you with the certificates for him,” Shine said to the crowd of future servicemembers. “Just know, your congressman from Central Texas absolutely honors you and is so grateful for you. You make Central Texas proud.”
The room filled with applause as the crowd cheered. One by one, the future servicemembers were called to the front of the room where board members and congressmen recognized each with certificates.
Following the presentation, enlistees and their families gathered together to take group photos commemorating the occasion.