Highlighting fresh commitments to the nation, Team APG and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command welcomed new recruits and families into the military community during the Our Community Salutes program at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center May 17.
The ceremony featured the swearing in of local military recruits, APG technology displays, and remarks from former Army colonel, Dr. Kenneth Hartman, the founder of Our Community Salutes. Brig. Gen. Karl H. Gingrich Assistant Program Executive Officer for Operations Readiness, PEO C3T, hosted the event.
Noting the ceremony was one of several APG Armed Forces Week activities, Gingrich said the week was about the armed forces looking forward to the future. He told the recruits it was “a great day because we’re here to celebrate your commitment to the armed forces” and that they, “and their families are reminders of why we all serve.”
Noting that only one out of every four applicants qualifies for military service, Gingrich commended the recruits for their accomplishments thus far.
“You’ve already differentiated yourselves from your peers and it’s going to become more of a stark contrast as you go forward,” he said, adding that the greatest difference will lie in their pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“Very few of your peers will ever do that,” he said.
“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to set you up for success and part of that is recognizing your commitment, recognizing your service, and reinforcing that you are different from your peers as you are endeavoring at a higher cost.
“Whether you serve three years or 30 years, you will always be a part of the armed forces.”
According to the program emcee, Greg Mahall of CECOM, the purpose of Our Community Salutes gatherings is to honor the commitment made by the next generation of military members and their families. He said the honorees all have enlisted and will attend their basic trainings in the weeks to come.
Hartman said he’s always believed that tributes should be given to those who volunteer to serve before they go in harm’s way. He said that due to Our Community Salutes efforts, this year, from April to June, about 20,000 high school seniors will be honored.
“This is not only a day to thank your sons and daughters for joining the service, but also a day for us to thank you,” he told the families. “Thank you for your support, they’re going to need it.”
He invited listeners to check the Our Community Salutes website about educational opportunities.
“If you leave after first enlistment, you’ll have education and experience whereas your counterparts will only have education. You will have experience and maturity.”
He added, that support comes from community as well as families and can include everyone from kindergarten teachers to classmates and clergy. Everyone in their lives who would like to see them do well, should be added motivation to achieve, Hartman said.
“I want you to think about the people who support you; they’ve got your back.”
The honorees consisted of four U.S. Navy recruits Curtis S. Braddy, Brittney Kamin, Jade M. Raccioppe, and Nicholas Whitaker.; and one Army recruit, Pedro J. Figueroa-Lopez.
They said the program reinforced their goals.
“I always wanted to be in the military; this is the right move for me,” said Figueroa-Lopez who turns 18 in June and enters basic training in July. “My grandfather and other relatives were in the Army and I have one friend who is in.”
He said his long term goals include getting a college education.
He was accompanied by his mother, Joselyn Lopez and brother Jonas Figueroa-Lopez.
“He’s my oldest and I’m very proud of him” Joselyn Lopez said adding, “He’s wanted to join since he was 4 years old. He was always saying he would join the Army and he always watched the Army in the news so we knew one day he would.”
Raccioppe, age 20, of Bel Air, also leaves for basic training in July. He is entering law enforcement.
“I have an associate [degree] in criminal justice but I still wanted to travel and see different parts of the world and experience different things,” he said, adding he has no long or short-term goals other than to gain law enforcement experience.
“We’ll see where that takes me,” he said.
Whitaker, of Joppa, Maryland, said he looks to the Navy to better himself. He will be an aviation machinist.
“I plan to get a college degree, experience life and meet new people,” he said, adding that as the oldest child in his family, he also hopes to set a good example. He thanked his parents and his recruiter for their support.
The program included an opening prayer by Garrison chaplain Maj. Chad Davis, and the national anthem by Jessie French, 108th Brigade, A Battery, 3rd Air Defense (JLENS).
Displays by APG organizations included Program Executive Office Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives; the Garrison Directorate of Public Works recycling and Pollution Prevention programs; the 20th CBRNE Command radiation detection systems; the 203rd Military Intelligence (TECHINT) small arms display; Joint Program Executive Office Chemical and Biological Defense; and a display of World Wars I through Vietnam era military weapons by Veterans Corps of America.
Our Community Salutes
Our Community Salutes is a national, non-profit organization helping communities recognize, honor and support high school seniors who plan to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces after graduation. OCS was founded in 2009 to provide enlistees and their parents with guidance, information, resources and community support from like-minded enlistees and parents as their sons and daughters transition into military service. For more information, visit http://www.ourcommunitysalutes.us/.