SAN ANTONIO -- Thirty-four young men and women committed to support and defend the U.S. Constitution from all enemies in front of thousands of witnesses from the San Antonio community at a sold-out AT&T Center Feb. 17.
The future Soldiers swore an oath administered by Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander, U.S. Army North, and senior commander, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, during opening ceremonies of Military Appreciation night at the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"You can do whatever you want; the Army offers you the opportunity," Caldwell said just prior to the ceremony. "You will go places and do things that no one else in your neighborhood will do."
The crowd cheered as the new recruits raised their hands and began a journey that will undoubtedly change their lives. The future Soldiers are part of less than one percent of all Americans who join the military.
Jay Benevidez, a recent Stevens High School graduate, said he's just finding his niche in life. He signed up to become biomedical equipment specialist.
"My family has a history of medical service, and I want to continue the tradition," he said.
Others said they wanted to use their Army service to springboard a career. John Caldera, who graduated from Southwest High School, said he was going to use his educational benefits to become a doctor in the next 10 years.
"This is probably the best decision I could have made," he said.
John Barrientes, a graduate of Holmes High School, is enlisting in the Infantry but said he plans on becoming a radiation therapist when he finishes his tour.
Although most of the new Soldiers hail from the San Antonio area, they come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. However, they all were joined together in volunteering to serve their country. Their future Army jobs will range from infantry, artillery, combat medic, wheeled vehicle mechanic and military police to Special Forces, human intelligence collector, parachute rigger and explosive ordnance disposal specialist.
Some of the recruits said their motivation was to serve their country.
"I just want to serve our country and say I did something important," explained Veronica Riojas, who has a degree in criminal justice from San Antonio Community College.
"This is something I wanted to do -- to serve my country, and I want to go on and become a Ranger!" added Manuel Gomez, who will serve in the artillery. "My family is proud of me."
Family and friends joined the future Soldiers. Although some said they were apprehensive about their loved ones joining the Army, all said they were proud of them for doing it. Eric English, a James Madison High School graduate, who is joining up to serve in the Special Forces, brought his girlfriend, Derilyn Stacy, who said she supports him in joining.
"Thanks for being willing to serve our nation, and thanks for going above and beyond," Caldwell said, as he addressed the group. "I'm very proud of having this opportunity to bring you into our Army."
Did the crowd cheer for the pending rodeo competition, the magnificent Palomino ceremony, the anticipation of the hit country band Lady Antebellum -- or was it because they were witness to a group of young people dedicating themselves to support their country? Perhaps it was a bit for all.