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Appreciation and advice

Annual dinner thanks high school military recruits for their commitment

Family and friends stand for the National Anthem prior to the eighth annual Operation Recruit Enlistment Dinner at Saint Martin’s University. Photo credit: Gail Wood

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It was a special moment, one filled with commitment on the part of local high school seniors.

And it was a moment filled with thank-yous.

A little over a month before they graduate, 170 teenagers stood and pledged to join the military at the eighth annual Operation Recruit Enlistment Dinner May 2. It's an annual community celebration held at Saint Martin's University's Marcus Pavilion to honor new recruits who have joined the military.

"I want to thank you," said Dr. Jeff Crane, SMU's dean of arts and science. "You're taking an important step. You're serving your country and moving forward in a way that's going to help you grow to become a better person."

Crane spoke of his days in the military and shared with the students how serving would affect their lives.

"It helped me to grow and to serve my country, which I am forever proud of," he said. 

The Marcus Pavilion was filled with about 900 family, friends and new military recruits. After five public figures spoke and shared their appreciation for the students' commitment to the military, everyone enjoyed pizza and pastries.

Lacey mayor Andy Ryder, a frequent guest and speaker at the event, gave the high school seniors a high-five, thanking them for their commitment. 

"The city of Lacey wishes to express its appreciation to honor these young men and women who have joined the Armed Forces on behalf of our country," Ryder said. "Thank you all."

Jimmy Collins, a retired major general now with the Washington State Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), offered some advice.

"The first thing I encourage you to do is to listen," he said. "The second thing I encourage you to do is give your very best to the team, because the people on your left and on your right are on the same team as you are."

Cooperation and teamwork, he emphasized, are two key factors in military success.

"If you work together, you will achieve remarkable things," he said.

Collins gave the new recruits a third guideline to follow. It was about doing their best and always trying to reach to a high standard.

"If you listen and if you work for the team, you will know what that standard is, and you will do exceedingly well," he said. "I'll say one more thing to remember. When you return, we will be delighted to welcome you home. Thank you very much, and God bless."

State Representative Dick Muri told the new recruits that 45 years ago, Congress voted to make the military an all-volunteer force. He said it improved the service because new recruiting standards were put into place. 

"Since it's become all volunteer, I think it's become a better military," Muri said. "You're in the military today and I envy you. There's so many opportunities out there."

Col. Stephen Snelson, vice commander, 62nd Airlift Wing, was the final speaker, mixing humor with advice. He was sure they'd not remember what he said, he joked, so he simplified it and related tips based on what he had gathered from his experience. 

"Don't be the first to volunteer if you're standing by a mud pit or a bathroom," he said, getting a laugh from the crowd.

Other tips included getting a haircut before going to boot camp, not wearing body piercings and wearing simple clothes. His final tip was about the importance of leadership.

"Just lead," Snelson said. "That's it. Lead. From the moment you get off that bus, lead."

Two or three months after they graduate from high school in June, many of these men and women will be heading to boot camp to begin their military commitment.

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