High school graduates headed to the U.S. armed forces often don't receive the same accolades as their college-bound peers at graduation ceremonies. But an organization of volunteers, called Our Community Salutes, is working tirelessly to give these recruits their first "thank you."
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In 2007, former soldier and university president Dr. Kenneth Hartman was serving on his local school board and noticed that high schools put a lot of emphasis at graduation on the students who had committed to colleges, but that was not the case for graduates who had pledged to serve their country first.
By 2009, Hartman had set up Our Community Salutes, and over the past decade, it has grown to 63 communities in 20 states, serving tens of thousands of participants through recognition ceremonies. The events are put on entirely by volunteers who often partner with veterans groups to honor the graduates' service and commitment to the nation.
"With only 30 percent of high school students even being able to qualify for the military, these kids are an elite group," Hartman told TheBlaze.
As the organization has grown, so have its offerings. Our Community Salutes has partnered with national sponsors to provide each graduate with a pocket-guide including the full text of founding documents of the United States, with supplemental materials.
In the introduction, Hartman writes, "You now join an elite group of Americans, numbering less than one percent, who have taken a solemn oath to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States'; a document that embodies the noble ideals and principles that safeguard our liberties."
Our Community Salutes has also built a OCSConnect, a guide to help new service members and their families through the transition from civilian to military life.
Communities celebrate high school grads who enlist www.youtube.com
Hartman told TheBlaze he was inspired to launch Our Community Salutes after hearing Glenn Beck ask on the radio one day, "Where is the next George Washington coming from?""Well, now I can tell him," Hartman says. "It's these military-bound 18-year-olds, who have already put country before themselves. We must celebrate their decision."