ROCKINGHAM — Fifteen Richmond Senior High School students swore an oath Wednesday afternoon to defend the nation.
Each student was introduced by retired Lt. Col. Jon Ring, Army JROTC instructor, during the military signing ceremony held in the school’s media center.
“Every year, we use this very same backdrop and we see athletes sign to go to college,” said Principal Jim Butler, who joined the National Guard to earn money for college.
He also mentioned the ceremonies for academic scholarship winners, the option of dual enrollment at Richmond Community College and a recent job fair for those who want to go straight into the workforce.
“What we’re trying to say is, for every one of our seniors, you have to choose your path — and there’s not one path that should be elevated over another,” Butler said. “It’s about finding what your commitment is, where your heart leads, what your skills can enable you to do.
“We want to honor the commitment these folks have made to their future, and to our future here today.”
Ring told the family members who were able to be there that the sacrifice is not only made by those joining the military, but by the whole family.
“There is no stronger stake to be had … in this country than to send your loved one or your youngster off to service of the country … within the continental United States or overseas,” he said. “I didn’t fully realize how my decision to serve our country affected my family as much as I did until my own kids decided to serve in the military.
“I’ve gone through everything that you parents and grandparents … are getting ready to go through as your youngster, your young American, decides to serve.”
Two of Ring’s children joined the Air Force, one of whom is overseas now and two other sons followed his footsteps as infantrymen in the Army and both served overseas multiple times. His youngest daughter is also in the Army.
“I didn’t realize what I was asking my family to do until they went and did the same thing,” he said. “Of course I’m concerned for their well being when they’re training and when they’re deployed, but I’m comforted in knowing that they’re surrounded by the best in the world … and I know that you will as well.”
Of those 15 students, 11 are going straight into their selected branch of the armed forces while the other four opted for military colleges.
Timmothy Powell will be attending Norwich University in Vermont, the oldest private military college in the U.S. where he will major in computer security and information assurance.
“It’s far away, being raised here; it’s a small town, too,” Powell said about why he chose to go so far north. “Northern Vermont is just mountains, nothing around. I like the lifestyle … being in the outdoors. “It really gets you focused in on what you’re trying to do. There’s no distractions.”
Powell also chose Norwich because of its history, dating back before the American Revolution. It is also where the Reserve Officer Training Corps was founded.
He plans to join the Vermont National Guard while in college.
Grantham J. Freeman, Kyle T. Goodwin and Billy C. Wilson are all headed south to The Citadel.
Goodwin also cited the history of South Carolina’s military college as a reason for making it his choice.
“And there’s a lot of structure, I like structure,” he said. “I’m really excited.”
Freeman agreed with Goodwin about the structure, and is also fond of the location.
“It’s a great environment and Charleston is a very beautiful, historic city,” he said. “Everybody knows The Citadel is always the greatest — better than Norwich.”
Freeman will major in security and intelligence studies; Goodwin in political science; and Wilson in criminal justice.
Four students — Joseph D. Cox, Stanley G. Gilbert Jr., Tyler S. Hall and Joshua T. White — are going into the U.S. Army and only one, Matthew L. Haber, opted for the Air Force.
Of the six students on the way to Parris Island to join the U.S. Marine Corps, four — Jeramyah C. Jones, Joshua L. Saillor, Spencer Stricklin and Hunter Terell — will be in the infantry. Savannah Sweet will join the military police and Victor Peña will be in motor transport.
Both of Stricklin’s parents were in the Marine Corps and he was born at the Naval Hospital aboard Camp Lejeune.
“Growing up, it was kinda the military lifestyle,” he said. “I couldn’t name one family member that wasn’t in the military.”
One day when recruiters were visiting the high school, Stricklin said he decided “the Marine Corps was just the way to go.”