DURHAM, N.C.-- Nearly 250 Active, Reserve and National Guard future Soldiers and their invited guests attended a banquet in the Soldiers' honor, at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham, N.C., May 5.The banquet, hosted by local civilian businesses, Raleigh Recruiting Battalion and the N.C. Army National Guard, thanked and recognized high school senior future Soldiers for their decision to enlist in the Army."I think it is a wonderful idea to recognize these young adults who have made the decision to serve our country," said Joy Thrash, executive director of the North Carolina Defense Business Association and event coordinator. "This was an event that not only honored new recruits, but showed appreciation to their families as well."The banquet included dinner, videos and remarks by the state legislature; guest speaker Beaux Fox, lead singer for the band Aerial Down; a slide show and more entertainment by local radio personality and "The Voice of the Hurricanes," Mike Maniscalco.Thrash explained that the value of the banquet is to show support for the future Soldiers."I believe it is important to let our military men and women know we support them and to let their families know we stand behind them," she said. "This event gives us the opportunity to start new recruits off in their career knowing they have the support of their local communities, state, and country."And their families get to experience the feeling of their children being appreciated for serving our country."My dad and my grandpa were in the Army. Just being in that lifestyle, I just wanted to carry on the tradition," said future Soldier Benjamin Jackson from Rocky Mount, N.C. "That lifestyle is appealing to me because it's about discipline, and everything I want out of life.""It's the same standard, the same benefit, it's the same ethic, and those ethics are timeless ethics," said Benjamin's father, Mike Jackson, who served in the late 1970's. "They honor God anytime someone lays down their life for their country or their fellow man. That pleases God."Future Soldier Summer Sandafur, from Greensboro, N.C., is thrilled about the opportunity to serve."I love my country, as do my family my friends, so I've wanted to join since I was little," she said. "I did it as soon as I turned 18, that was as soon as I could. I figured, the sooner, the better."
For Thrash, who has worked with the military for many years and on many events, she said coordinating this particular event is one of the most rewarding she has had the experience of being a part of."The future soldier appreciation dinner is the most meaningful to me. We are giving every effort to hold a five-star event that will let these young adults, really children, know we are proud of them, support them and appreciate them - even more than this event could show," she said."You are entering service at a time when other citizens may feel that the cost of self-sacrifice is too much to bear," said Lt. Col. Maury A. Williams, Commander of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion of the North Carolina Army National Guard. "It is this quality that makes you unique. Less than one percent of our citizens serve our Nation's military. By sitting here today, you have distinguished yourself ahead of many others."