Parents and grandparents, siblings and friends applauded — some cheered — as more than 100 soon-to-be high school graduates from Palm Beach County (and the Treasure Coast) crossed the staging area of William T. Dwyer High School and were honored Thursday night as soon-to-be members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Air National Guard, and Army National Guard, during the first Our Community Salutes ceremony to take place in Palm Beach County.
Graduating high seniors enlisting in the armed forces at the Our Community Salutes event.
In his speech, Palm Beach County School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent told his current students how honored he is to share this very important evening with them. “Despite the doubts they may have had about their strength and courage, these graduates- to- be have looked inside and have decided that, come what may, THEY are going to make a difference! Each of you is already a hero. So, the real gratitude today is for each of YOU. Quite simply, you have decided to serve for ME…for each of us as individuals AND as a nation.”
”We are here tonight to honor you; you have set yourselves apart from the majority of today’s society and made the selfless decision to serve and defend our country with distinction and honor,” Shannon Cake of WPTV, Channel 5, said to the young men and women.
Ms. Cake emceed at the inaugural Palm Beach County chapter of Our Community Salutes (OCS), a program that began in 2009 with a single ceremony in New Jersey to honor high school graduates who have committed to military service. Cara Young, Dreyfoos School of the Arts student sang the National Anthem and God Bless America while the invocation and benediction was conducted by Rabbi Alan Sherman.
By last year, ceremonies were held in a dozen places around the country, including Pittsburgh and Cleveland. More than 20 ceremonies were slated this past year, from California to Puerto Rico. Broward, Miami-Dade and Jacksonville also held their events this month.The enlistees at the Palm Beach County event witnessed pomp and ceremony that will become familiar — posting the colors; comrades at ramrod attention; crisp salutes.
The Palm Beach County ceremony, which was Presented by Office Depot and Sponsored by Bank of America, was the first of its kind in Palm Beach County. After his speech, Tim Rea, sr. vice-president of Marketing and Brand Strategy and a captain in the US Army, told the students that if and when they re-enter the workforce at any point, Office Depot welcomes them.Bank of America’s Senior Vice President Market Manager for Palm Beach County, Kelley Sobolewski shook the hands of all enlistees as they crossed the stage, wearing the t-shirts sponsored by Bank of America, depicting a graduation cap and a tassel that read, “OCS.” Keiser University and Florida Power and Light were also sponsors of this event as well as huge Military supporters.
Our Community Salutes of Palm Beach County President, Tara Kobel, said, “My son, Derek, enlisted in the Navy in 2008 after his graduation from Park Vista High School. I wish there was a ceremony like this when he made the decision to serve. When Captain Prigmore from the US Army Jupiter Command approached me with the idea of being the event Chair, I thought about the difference that I could make for these students and their parents in recognizing their honorable decision to serve.” Guest speaker Major General Wayne P. Jackson (US Army RET) stressed the importance of goal-setting and action during his speech.
The enlistees crossing the stage received, in the military tradition, a “challenge coin,” but one specially minted that depicts the region on one side and the insignia of each military branch. Even those unable to attend will receive a coin, Ms. Kobel said. Additionally, local Congressmen and Congresswomen made proclamations on the floor of Congress wherein the names of these graduating students who have chosen to enlist in the military were read into the Congressional record. All enlistees also received a copy of the proclamation.
Genlistees take the oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
The highlight of the evening was when LTC Don Cake, US Army (RET), and the father of Shannon Cake, conducted the swearing in ceremony where the future armed service members took the Oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.
Also honored were three high school guidance counselors, who received the General. Colin L. Powell Service Award for their guidance and mentoring these students in their decision to enlist– Mr. Mark Carson, Royal Palm Beach High School, Ms. Margaret Choppa, Treasure Coast High School, and Dr. Elaine Small, South Fork High School. Palm Beach County nominees included Ms. Marie Amalie-Farris, teacher at Wellington High School, Sgt. Jose Negron, JROTC instructor at Forest Hill High School, and Mr.Jimmy Peterkin, with the Palm Beach County School District’s Office of Community Involvement.
Superintendent Wayne Gent with General Colin Powell winner Mark Carson.
“It’s very heartwarming to be a part of a ceremony like this,” Tara Kobel said. “After a short recovery from the extensive panning of this year’s event, I will be busy planning next year’s event that I hope will be bigger and better than before. I am looking forward to working with organization, community leaders, and volunteers for next year’s Our Community Salutes event.”
Please visit www.ocspbc.org for more information and pictures from the May 9th ceremony. Contact Ms. Kobel at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a Sponsor or volunteer for additional OCSPBC events.