Commentary: CMAC delivers on its salute to future military members

Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force recruits honored at event presented by Community Military Appreciation Committee

They are among the finest young men and women in our region.

Even if they do not know it yet.

Air Force enlistees line up at the start of a salute ceremony put on by the Community Military Appreciation Committee on Saturday. The event honors young men and women from the region who have enlisted in the U.S. military. Photo by Paul Valencia
Air Force enlistees line up at the start of a salute ceremony put on by the Community Military Appreciation Committee on Saturday. The event honors young men and women from the region who have enlisted in the U.S. military. Photo by Paul Valencia

They are about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Some are doing it for a challenge. Others want to travel. Earning money for college is a motivating factor, as well.

No matter the reason, they all share a sense of duty.

They all will sacrifice.

All of them know what they have signed up for, what they have sworn an oath to, and they are ready to accept that awesome responsibility.

Most, if not all, have already given the oath, signed their names on the papers.

On Saturday, though, roughly 100 young men and women who have enlisted in the U.S. military were the featured guests at another ceremony, this one at the Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks.

Matthew France of La Center High School and Joshua Mann of Union High School show off their coins and certificates of appreciation they received Saturday at a salute for young enlistees. France and Mann are Air Force recruits. Photo by Paul Valencia
Matthew France of La Center High School and Joshua Mann of Union High School show off their coins and certificates of appreciation they received Saturday at a salute for young enlistees. France and Mann are Air Force recruits. Photo by Paul Valencia

The event is part of the “Our Community Salutes” series, put on by the Community Military Appreciation Committee. This was the annual salute to future military service members.

Army. Navy. Air Force. Marines. They were all represented. The individuals came from all over the Northwest, but most were from Clark County and some from the Portland area.

The mayor of Vancouver, Anne McEnerny-Ogle, was a guest speaker. So, too, was retired Maj. Gen. Gary Medvigy, now a Clark County councilor. 

Their guests were given certificates of appreciation, coins, and a flag. 

Call it official gratitude for giving that oath of enlistment.

It also is a chance for veterans to say thank you to the future veterans. And for veterans to look back on when they enlisted.

This veteran, in fact, experienced nothing like Saturday’s salute. Back in 1989, I gave the oath with three others, in a small room, with maybe one guest. No parents. No friends. Just the oath in front of the flag. 

Not that I needed anything more. I didn’t miss out on anything, because no one had really thought to do anything like we are seeing now in our community.

And that is why CMAC is so special. 

The salutes to recognize and honor high school seniors who are enlisting, as well as their parents, started in New Jersey in 2009. The first such event in the Northwest was held in 2011 in Vancouver, a cooperative effort by the Army and CMAC. 

Now, it is an annual tradition. Usually, the event is held at a local high school auditorium, with enlistees and their families all together at once. Last year, the event was called off during the pandemic. This year, CMAC held four ceremonies, one right after the other, at the barracks. That way, all could be thanked, but the facility would not be overcrowded.

Here is what some of the future military members said on Saturday:

“It’s a huge honor, and a sense of self worth, being part of something bigger than yourself,” said Joshua Mann, a senior at Union High School who is going into the Air Force. 

His father was in the Air Force. He joked that his father would not forgive him if he had picked a different branch.

Mitchell France of La Center High School said he always wanted to serve, and he wanted to start his career in firefighting. The Air Force gave him the opportunity to do both. He was appreciative of Saturday’s ceremony.

“I didn’t even know this was going to happen,” France said. “It was pretty cool.”

Reagan Vogel of Union High School said she wanted to travel and experience new cultures. That’s why she picked the Navy.

“I want to make a difference in the world,” Vogel said.

Kelsie Roach is a graduate of River HomeLink in Battle Ground. She has joined the Marines. 

“I wanted to push myself, to give myself the highest standard, and get myself there,” she said.

Kelsie Roach said she joined the Marines to push herself to the highest standard. Photo by Paul Valencia
Kelsie Roach said she joined the Marines to push herself to the highest standard. Photo by Paul Valencia

Future Army soldiers also were among the hundred or so recognized.

“I wanted to serve my country, and I want to make my family proud,” said Shyann Langford, a student at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School. 

Hunter Speiss of Columbia River High School said the Army will give him a strong foundation to start his post-high school life.

Joslin Alcala of Battle Ground High School said she has had a fascination with the Army since she was young. When she went looking to serve, the Army “just felt more right.”

And Matthew Tarkington of Hudson’s Bay High School joked that he picked the Army because “they asked first.”

“I just wanted to help out the world, and I felt this was a great way to do it,” Tarkington said.

The future military men and women will help out the world.

Back home, CMAC helps out with our little area of the world, with salutes to present-day soldiers as well as ceremonies for veterans throughout the year.

For transparency sake, I have attended a few CMAC meetings. The organization is a mixture of young and old, and all inspiring. Most are veterans. Some are community members who want to celebrate the military and those who have served.

I’ve been to a few of these salutes to future military members, and I remain in awe. I’m so grateful we have so many volunteers, willing to serve.

Back in my day, yes, we knew what we were signing up for, that it was possible to be in harm’s way. But looking back, it was mostly a time of peace. 

These days? Any man or woman who signs up understands the risk. 

As Alcala told me, when others run from danger, the military runs toward danger.

Every year, our region sends some of our best young people into uniform. 

The Community Military Appreciation Committee wants to make sure that they head off to basic training with the understanding that Clark County is behind them, throughout their service and beyond.

It is one collective salute, from our community to our future military members.

Godspeed.

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