Our Community Salutes Encourages High School Enlistees to Dream Big

By Ana McCranieMay 7, 2024

El Paso, TX - “Dream Big.” “Don’t Quit.” “Bravery.” “Courage.” These are some of the words echoed throughout the Our Community Salutes Ceremony hosted by the City of El Paso on April 17, 2024.

The Our Community Salutes enlistee recognition ceremonies celebrate and provide support for students as they graduate High School and join the 1% of Americans who serve in uniform. This year’s regional ceremony was held at the University of Texas at El Paso and honored 250 enlistees.

One of those students, Bel Air High School Senior Nathanial Zuniga-Lara, is dreaming big and furthering his education by joining the United States Army. “I decided to enlist to pursue a higher education. I wanted to better myself and set the foundation for me to get a psychology degree and found that there would be no other better place than to be in the Army to do that,” he said.

He joins his father and brother in serving the country in the Armed Forces. “I’ve been around the Army my whole life. I think it really inspired me to join because I have all these other figures around me in the Armed Forces and it made me want to step through that door first.”

Students and their families were honored with a vibrant opening reception highlighted by live Latin-style music performed by the Fort Bliss 1st Armored Division Band. They were later joined by the Franklin High School mariachi and folklorico group, celebrating the rich culture of El Paso. Attendees were able to visit with several local organizations including Fort Bliss MWR and the USO who offer extensive military services, take pictures with UTEP mascot, Paydirt Pete, or in a Photo Booth that displayed the Armed Forces flags in the background.

The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, Fort Bliss Chapter Color Guard opened the ceremony with the posting of the Colors. Featured speakers included opening remarks by UTEP President and former Secretary of the United States Air Force, Heather Wilson, and Guest Speaker, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Command Sgt. Maj. James L. Light.

Light’s words of advice to these young enlistees included the two-word phrase – don’t quit. “Don’t quit. Keep a positive attitude, pay attention to what you’re being taught and continue to remember what you’re there for. What is your purpose? Why did you join? What do you want to achieve while you’re there.” Light encouraged the future soldiers to continue understanding their purpose and why they fight, having something or someone that drives and motivates them, and staying grounded through the artifacts of military culture – creeds, values and ethos.

The ceremony’s featured speaker, Retired Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman John Wayne Troxell, infused the audience with energy and inspiration, sharing words of wisdom to both students and their families.

“This is an opportunity for them be part of something bigger than themselves. To be part of the most trusted institution that the United States has, but more important springboard their lives into success. Whether they stay for the initial tour or make a career out of it… take advantage of all the opportunities the military gives them in terms of education, training opportunities, take advantage of all of them then ultimately just DREAM BIG with what you want to do in your lives.”

He encouraged enlistees to “be confident, be certain, don’t have doubt, have faith not fear, and go out and enjoy your time serving our United States of America and Armed Forces.”

Troxell spoke about his time in the military and proudly recognized that his achievements, successes, and reaching economic prosperity would not have been possible if it were not for him joining the Army, being stationed at Fort Bliss, and meeting his wife.

“The American Dream is alive and well because of what the United States Military does and you men and women that are making the decision to join, you’re joining this long list of millions of people that have served in uniform and we welcome you with open arms.”

The ceremony ended with a coin awarded to each enlistee who displayed them with great honor as family members took photos and videotaped them. Enlistees joined their new Military Branch service brothers and sisters by loudly and proudly singing their respective Military Hymn performed by the Fort Bliss 1st Armored Division Band.

Dream Big Enlistees!