U.S. Army Major Gen. Peter Lennon on Saturday afternoon welcomed 71 enlistees from 47 towns in Herkimer, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie counties to the nation’s armed forces during the inaugural Our Community Salutes of Central New York military recognition event at Herkimer Home State Historic Site.
“It is a privilege and an honor to talk to them because these young men and women volunteered and made a choice to join something bigger than themselves,” Lennon, commander of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command in Belle Chasse, La., and a native of New Berlin, said Saturday. “It is an opportunity to welcome them to the team.”
“While Our Community Salutes has grown to a nationwide program, this is the first such event in our region,” said event coordinator Lynn Kent. “We believe it will become an annual way of recognizing and saying ‘thank you’ to some of our most patriotic citizens.”
Kent said 50 of the invited 71 high school seniors who will enter the military after they graduate in June attended Saturday’s ceremony, as well as a crowd of 300 that included military officials, state dignitaries, veterans and high school and college educators.
“While the students who have chosen to enter military service after graduation are the primary honorees, this is also an opportunity to recognize their parents and others who have helped shape their decision and make their enlistments possible,” she said.
In addition to the formal recognition program presided over by senior military officials, a variety of social and refreshment options were available, including a tour of the historic homestead of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, one of the heroes of the American Revolution.
“Gen. Herkimer did not have the benefit of the schooling and training you will receive. He had to gain his military acumen from the school of hard knocks during the French and Indian War,” Carl Venditto, an ambassador of the U.S. Army National Guard and Connecticut state chair emeritus for employer support to the Guard and Reserve Committee, said to the enlistees. “Today’s armed forces will provide you with the best training and schooling in the world. You will become the very best of our nation.”
“By making the decision to enlist, you have gained a family for life,” Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R – New Hartford, said in her remarks to the enlistees.
Tenney, whose son will graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy this week, reminded the high school seniors to “stick to your principals” and “follow your leaders.”
“Your decision to serve has brought pride and honor to all of us,” she said.
“You have chosen to stand up for the United States of America, it’s freedoms, it’s liberties and it’s Constitution. You will defend everything we as Americans hold dear around the world,” Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R – Glenville, said to the students.
Page 2 of 2 - The recognition was not lost on the enlistees, as Jerry Murello, 18, of Laurens, who will head to Parris Island, S.C., for basic training in August, said he was “blown away by how grateful people are for us.” “And seeing all the vets here, all the officers and the enlisted people … these are the people,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I joined, for these people. I get to carry on what all these people represent.”
Ryan Holmes, 17, of also Laurens, said he is carrying on a family tradition by enlisting in the Navy. “I thought it would be a great way to start my life after high school,” he said.
Our Community Salutes events have taken place throughout the country since Kenneth Hartman founded the national organization in 2009.
Contributing: More Content Now