By Alicia Conde
La Prensa de San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO — Over 200 area high school seniors who chose to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces received their first “thank you” from the community during a ceremony last Thursday evening for their decision and commitment to serve their country following graduation.
Educators, veterans, community members and military dignitaries gathered at the University of the Incarnate Word’s Sky Room to recognize the valor and selfless service of the young individuals with a Texas-style barbeque dinner catered by Rudy’s and organized by Our Community Salutes (OCS), a national, nonprofit organization created to recognize such students and their parents.
“It takes a certain kind of individual when we are a country in the midst of war, that steps up and really places service above self,” said Rear Admiral Bob Kiser, who has proudly served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy. “This [event] is intended to identify, cherish and celebrate those people.”
One of those individuals recognized was John Barron, 18, of Sidney Lanier High School, whose parents had mixed feelings about his decision of joining the U.S. Air Force. Juan and Lucila Barron, who immigrated from Guanajuato, Mexico more than 20 years ago, admitted being shocked with their son’s announcement.
“At first I was sad and even cried, but I also feel very proud of him and happy that he is accomplishing what he wants,” said Lucia.
Juan, who described his eldest son as someone who is intelligent and knows what he wants, also had doubts at first, stating he originally preferred he attended a university to acquire an education and follow his dream of studying political science.
Determined to do whatever he thought best for his future and never taking his eye off his target, John convinced his parents that the military was the best route to college and to acquire his goals.
“My sole purpose is basically to get my education, I joined to further my knowledge and to become a politician,” said the future warrior.
Ken Hartman, founder and president of OCS, assured all the parents present that their children were in good hands with the U.S. Armed Forces, promising that their son or daughter would come out of that experience, “mature and driven,” and also with the opportunity to come out of college debt-free.
During the ceremony a special recognition was made to Sarah Conway, guidance counselor from Warren High School, who was awarded with the Colin Powell Award for her collaboration with the recruiters from all military branches and received a standing ovation, following a very emotional reading of the poem “Old Glory” took place.
Yet the culmination of the night was when each of the military branches— Army, Texas National Guard, Marines, Navy, and Air Force— presented their enlistees one by one, as parents beamed with pride from their seats.
“It’s a grand satisfaction as a father that my son is joining, he has everything he needs to be a great airman, I feel very proud,” said Juan.