Young men and women who enter service academies or college ROTC programs after high school generally get a ceremony honoring their service. Such is not the case for students who choose to enlist, but one group is looking to change all that. New Jersey-based organization Our Community Salutes travels the country to honor high school grads entering the military, The Associated Press reports.
The organization was founded in 2009 by New Jersey resident Ken Hartman who felt that young adults who volunteer for the Armed Forces deserve recognition from their communities. In just three years, the group has grown considerably and hosted 22 ceremonies across the country this year. Hartman expects to recognize about 4,700 students.
"It's critical that these kids feel like their community is supportive of them," Hartman told the AP. "If they're deployed and they’re in a strange town in Afghanistan, they need to know they have their community’s support. We're the first to say 'thank you.'"
The group serves a vital role, as there are still a considerable amount of people enlisting. According to the Department of Defense, during the fiscal year-to-date through October 2011, the Army saw 6,643 accessions while the Navy welcomed 2,291 recruits.