Our Community Salutes honors students heading to the military
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Our Community Salutes-Central Texas recognized more than 75 students who have made a commitment to join one of the branches of the United States military with a ceremony held at the Harker Heights Public Library Thursday evening.
Students from the following school districts were recognized: Belton, Brownwood, Copperas Cove, Cameron, China Springs, Gatesville, Jonesboro, Lampasas, Lorena, Mart, Moody, Rosebud-Lott, Salado, San Saba, Temple, Waco, West and Whitney.
Ethan Provost was the sole Copperas Cove High School student present for Thursday’s ceremony. He is going into the Navy.
“It means a lot being able to come here and getting support before I go in to basic [training],” Provost said. “It gives me more morale.”
Provost said his dad served in the Army, but he wanted to choose a path that would be a better fit for him, so he decided on the Navy.
“I’m really grateful to be here and for what everyone’s done for me and given to me, and I’m very excited to be in the Navy and travel around the world,” he added.
Other Copperas Cove students who have committed to the military include Kent Allen (Navy), Annalyn Barnicoat (Navy), Janashia Hunter (Navy), Rory Kersey (Navy), Jacob Watson (Navy), Troy Wingo (Navy) and Caleb McIntyre (Marine Corps).
Retired Maj. Gen. Ken Cox was the master of ceremonies for Thursday’s awards ceremony and introduced the elected officials and representatives of elected officials which included State Rep. Hugh Shine, of District 55; State Rep. Brad Buckley, of District 54; Harker Heights Mayor Spencer H. Smith; Jean Shine, who spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. John Carter, of District 31; and Frank Minosky, who spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, District 25.
These elected officials and representatives presented certificates of recognition to the recruits.
“The purpose of Our Community Salutes is to support these men and women you see in uniform, right here against the wall, that are directly responsible for your sons and daughters making the ultimate determination to become part of our Armed Services,” Cox said. “Our Community Salutes wants to recognize those young men and women who are willing to serve their country and also thank their parents, and…we have a chance to recognize some of the counselors and mentors inside the schools that play a significant role in supporting the recruiters to ensure they have the opportunity, the open-door capability and the willingness to meet with the students to ultimately make the decision to enlist.”
Cox expressed appreciation for the parents who supported their children and raised them to be people who “understand the significance of service above self.”
“That’s what serving our military is,” Cox said. “It’s not about you. It’s about something much, much bigger than yourself, and you’re joining an organization that is willing to sacrifice themselves for the defense of their country.”
Jean Shine, president of Our Community Salutes-Central Texas, again reminded the recruits just how much of their community would be cheering them on as they take their next steps in life.
“This is from your community, all of Central Texas,” Shine said. “Every student here, when you get days where you think, ‘I can’t do that training anymore,’ just remember all the people not only here- we just represent the rest of Central Texas-honor you. This organization is run by donations from Central Texas. This organization is supported from people in Central Texas, and there’s not one person we’ve asked anything from that they didn’t step up and say, ‘I can help. Let me help,’ so we want to encourage you. We want to thank you for stepping up and serving your country.”
Shine also spoke on behalf of Rep. John Carter and shared that he was the very first person to step up and help when she started the Central Texas Chapter of Our Community Salutes after finding out that there was nothing in place to help recognize and honor the high school students who choose to go into the military, as either enlisted or commissioned officers.
She said she called him on his cellphone while meaning to reach his office number, and he was gung-ho to help.
“He was so excited,” Shine said. “He said, ‘I want to participate. I want to honor them,’ and while we talked, he wrote everything that he wanted to say and do. He was just right spot-on, our first person and has been a big supporter each and every one of you since that moment, so on his behalf, we’ll be presenting you with the certificates from him, but just know your congressman from Central Texas absolutely honors you and is so grateful for you. You make Central Texas proud.”