Thursday, June 17, 2010

Salutes for Graduates Who’ll Be Saluting Soon

By WINNIE HU PHILADELPHIA — The valedictorians stood out with their bronze medals, and the honor-society members wore turquoise stoles and decorative cords to mark their successes at Cherry Hill High School West in New Jersey. But it was three serious-looking young men in plain purple robes who were asked to stand midway through their graduation ceremony here at Temple University on Wednesday afternoon, as the school’s principal, Joseph Meloche, announced their names and future plans. Abner Alcontin: United States Air Force. Keith Mailahn: United States Army. Robert Pennington: Air Force. “Thank you gentlemen, on behalf of everyone here, for your dedication, commitment and willingness to serve,” Mr. Meloche told them, as their classmates and families clapped loudly. High schools across the nation are saluting students who opt for boot camp over freshman orientation, rewriting graduation traditions in suburban communities like Cherry Hill. These military recruits, long overshadowed by their Ivy League-bound classmates, are being given a place of honor alongside the valedictorians and scholars. “Everybody’s going to know who we are, and I’m going to feel more appreciated even by people who don’t know me,” said Mr. Mailahn, 18. “Even though some of us may not be the brightest students, we’re still doing something with our lives. When we’re signing those papers, we’re putting our lives on the line.” Bethel Park High School, outside of Pittsburgh, awarded diplomas this month to its eight enlisted students before everyone else. The Lenape regional district in New Jersey started a new awards ceremony for those joining the armed services, and on Long Island, Longwood High School has created a “wall of honor” with plaques dedicated to recent graduates and alumni on active duty; there are 52 so far. In Oregon and Washington State, 237 seniors started a new tradition of wearing honor cords of black and gold at their graduation ceremonies to signify their Army future. And across Illinois, dozens of schools have signed on to a campaign to honor enlisted students at graduation that is supported by the state’s principals association and political leaders. “I think we’re finally starting to get it,” said Zeb Jansante, principal of Bethel Park. “In the past, it’s not been honored as it should have been. As a school, we’re an academic institution by and large and we don’t see the military as a next step.” But some parents and antiwar groups have questioned the special recognition, saying that public schools should not be singling out any particular career path or appear to be endorsing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think it glamorizes it in the same way that a lot of recruiting materials glamorize serving in the military,” said Kimber Heinz, national organizing coordinator for the War Resisters League. “It’s seen as really cool, but it doesn’t show the reality of war.” In a country that has been at war for nearly nine years, principals and students at highly regarded suburban schools say that interest has been growing in the military — and not just in West Point and the other academies that traditionally attract top students. They say that the enlisted ranks give many more students a chance to show their patriotism, gain experience in specialized fields and technologies, and receive a loan-free college education through an expanded G.I. Bill. The Department of Defense said that about 76,000 high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 19 had reported for active duty in 2008, the most recent year available, falling from 80,000 in 2006. Most high schools have no more than a few enlisted students, particularly in high-performing districts where, some officials say, joining the military has sometimes been seen as a step below enrolling in community college. Indeed, military recruiting is often discouraged because it could lower a school’s college-acceptance rate — a highly prized statistic that can be linked to real estate values. “There are lots of communities where that’s the measuring stick of success,” said Dick Flanary, a senior director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “We need to recognize that every kid is not going to college.” Jade Bates, 18, who is joining the Air Force, said she felt largely overlooked at Audubon High School in New Jersey as her classmates went first to college fairs and then to banquets for academic and athletic achievements. “I’m an average student but I’m doing something, and I think more students going to the military should be recognized,” she said. “A lot of times, we really do get brushed aside. I’ve felt really left out, and unappreciated, and not even there.” Kenneth E. Hartman, an administrator at Drexel University who is an Army veteran, said that he started a volunteer group, Our Community Salutes, last year to honor enlisted students and their families because so many high schools did not. His group has raised more than $25,000 to hold an annual banquet for military-bound seniors and their parents in South Jersey. A similar effort started in Pittsburgh this year. “I went around with a tin cup in hand, and not one person turned me down,” Dr. Hartman said. “This is a different type of graduate who deserves the support and gratitude of our entire community.” Dr. Hartman, a parent and former school board member in Cherry Hill, also pushed his own district to recognize enlisted students at its graduation ceremonies. Cherry Hill High School East will honor four enlisted graduates at its ceremony Thursday, including Jerome Epps, who said he was a C student who would not otherwise be singled out. “I believe that most kids think going to the military is the easy way out and you don’t have to work as hard as the kids going straight to college,” he said. “They don’t know what the military involves exactly.” Before Wednesday’s ceremony here, Mr. Mailahn stood with his fellow enlistees, and looked around at his classmates, many of whom were busy tweaking their honor stoles and cords. “I feel different because they’re still going to school and I’m starting my career,” he said. “I feel good about myself.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Esteemed friends, this Easter we all await with our families as those ones who defended our homeland as well as the ones who partook in the agressor army. But my friend General Ante Gotovina yet his fifth Easter awaits without his family, imprisoned in the Netherlands for some alleged crime which he himself didn't do. In other words it means that he as a innocent person lies in the prison, so this procedure of the International Court reminds me of of the procedure done before two thousand years when a just man who helped all of them was sentenced. But look at the names and family names fo the judges Ponitie Pilat and Carla del Ponte. I'm not that much against Carla del Ponte for she did her job, but still I'm angrier with our home traitors and high treason of persons, but I don' know after what logic they sit at the Croatian Parliament (Sabor) and the Government who are rewsponsible for capture and delivering of Croatian hero, Balkan hero, a European hero and might be of the whole world. The greatest absurd of all is that the Serbean General of a tank brigade escaping before our Croatian forces under caterpillars of his tanks smashed some civilians who as fugitives were rushing in direction of Bosnia, though they shouldn't have done it so for they had no reason to try to escape for the deceased President Dr. F.Tuđman promised in his name and in the name of the Croatian abolition for all crimes that they had done over Croatian nation. The crushed over civilians, women old men and childrenw were shown as victims of the cannon fire of the Croatian Army, what wasn't true.
The members of the International forces who were as tampon zone among the war parties played a bad and shamefu role who had top be neutral mostly served to one side, and for that unfair act won money and Serbean medals, to also get medals in their own countries as fair soldiers and officers. And they were cowerds and liers in fact. Take for example Srebrenica massacre at least.
Hadn't Croatian general Ante Gotovina on reuqest of American and European polititians and generals attacked the Serbean forces and so broke the ring around Sarajevo and weakened the Serbean forces in the whole BiH, in the war would be involved more European and world states and it would be a European and the world war. The European polititians know this but stil they further hold in prison the honest General Ante Gotovina. While the real criminal Serbean general Novakovič, Commander of the tank corpus freely and without any sanctions lives in his Serbia and his missdeed is Savo Štrbac, the president of Veritas imputed it to Croatian side and General Ante Gotovina.
Gentleman judges, set free the innocent man from your prison to celebrate Easter with his family.
Thank you very much indeed, Please I will like you to accept this token with good faith as this is from the bottom of my heart. Thanks and God bless you and your family.
Hope to hear from you soon.