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Dinner honors high school seniors enlisting in the military

Operation RED celebrates next generation of Servicemembers

Brenda and John Littau share a moment with their son, Ian, a new recruit, at the Operation RED ceremony at Clover Park Technical College on May 22.

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Spirits were high, recruits were beaming, and proud parents celebrated as the first annual Recruit Enlistment Dinner (RED) commenced at Clover Park Technical College on May 22.

Pierce County, in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the United States Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and local businesses, honored the 500 high school seniors in attendance.

"We wanted to acknowledge their decision to enlist in all branches of the armed forces," said John Faust, the Pierce County and South King County recruiting commander.

Carlene Joseph of Harborstone Credit Union helped Faust plan the event in two months.

"This is going to be the envy of other counties," she said. "Other branches are going to see this and want to do the same."

For Ian Littau, enlisting means dreams do come true.

"I've wanted to be a Soldier for forever," he said. "I want to be a pilot and defend the freedom the military fights for."

Army recruit Mark Pickens said his uncle, who is a Special Forces Soldier, convinced him to join. Others weren't sure he'd succeed, but he recently completed basic training.

"For everyone who said I couldn't, I did it. I have the mentality and I can be better than (you think)," he said.

"I'm nervous but excited," added Army recruit Travis Hopkins. "This event is a great honor. I'm proud to be military and recognized for it."

Paul Wood, a 29-year Army veteran, also helped plan the event.

"It's exciting to see the next generation of Soldiers," he said. "So many youth are stepping forward and willing to serve."

Kim Wyman, a Thurston County Auditor and former military spouse, said the ceremony was a great way to welcome recruits.

"We don't do enough things like this to make them feel welcomed."

Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson agreed.

"This is a tremendous event," he said. "The turnout of recruits speaks to the character of our youth. They know what's going on and are ready to serve."

Army recruit Jeremy Reeves knows about military service - his grandfather and great-grandfather were Servicemembers.

"I'm so ready," he said, looking at his mother, Jackie. "I'm happy that's he's happy," she said. "He did his homework and convinced me this is what he wanted to do."

In attendance were congressmen, legislators, judges and a multitude of military leaders, including recruiters from four branches of the military. The ceremony began with the announcement of proclamation, followed by the formation of troops and presentation of the colors.

Then came the much anticipated enlistment ceremony. Side by side and shoulder to shoulder, recruits declared their commitment to the armed forces in one voice and with one mind.  

"This is a great day to be an American Soldier," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Jimmy Collins, Washington's Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) in his speech - a fact that wasn't lost on the military's newest enlistees.

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