More than 460 Northeast Ohio high school seniors who will enter military service after their graduations will be honored Tuesday.
In a ceremony at Cleveland State University, young men and women who chose Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard or National Guard (and Reserve service), will be recognized.
“I think it is really respectful,” said Chase Swain, a senior at East High School, who will leave for Marines boot camp at Parris Island, S.C, less than two weeks after his graduation ceremony.
“A lot of young people don’t get a lot of respect now,” said Swain. His older brother, Cpl. Trevor Swain, already has served more than three years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan, since he graduated from East.
The ceremony is called the Enlisting Senior Recognition Ceremony. It is open to the public and begins at 6:15 p.m. at the CSU Student Center, 2121 Euclid Ave.
The nonprofit group Our Community Salutes of Northeast Ohio Inc. is coordinating the event that honors enlisting seniors from Summit, Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga counties, as well as Vermilion, Black River, Lake and Chippewa high schools.
“People get recognition for ROTC and service academies, but there is nothing for young people who step out of high school and into the uniform,” said William “Bill” H. Willoughby, a co-chair of the event. He is a 1960 West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran who was wounded in combat.
Other co-chairs are retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Wagner and Lucy M. Stickan.
Will Myers, 19, decided a year ago to join the Ohio Army National Guard. He will leave for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., on June 10 after graduating from Springfield High School.
“I am very excited,” said Myers, who said he joined for college tuition benefits and to serve his country.
The recognition ceremony for enlistees is important, he said, because maybe it will lead others to enlist, like he did.
“I can’t wait to get there,” said Myers, one of several seniors at Springfield High School who are joining the Ohio Army National Guard.
Myers, who was sworn into the National Guard last summer, will join the 1484th Transportation Company out of Green as a truck driver and said his plan is to be an active duty guardsman.
Another Springfield senior, Brittany Champlin, 18, went to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., and will enter training as an Ohio Army National Guard combat medic July 19 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
She wants to go to college and take advantage of full tuition reimbursement to study to help people with disabilities.
She is happy the ceremony will be held to shine a light on young people who have made the decision to serve their country.
“It gives us a little more to be proud of,” she said. “Everyone in sports gets recognized at banquets ... To be recognized in front of our families is really good.”
Swain is among five members of the Marine Corps Junior ROTC class at East who are joining the Marine Corps this year. He will train to become a KC-130 mechanic after boot camp.
He said he decided to join the Marines because of his older brother.
“I saw all the respect he got when we saw him graduate,” he said. “I thought, ‘I have to do that.’ ”
Willoughby, an emeritus civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, said this will be the third year for the ceremony recognizing enlisting seniors.
“It closes the deal,” he said. “What you have is a community saying, ‘Thank you for your decision.’ ... You want the families to feel like the community appreciates that.”
For more information, go to www.ocscle.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.