Community leaders give words of encouragement, advice to future service members
Jackson Taylor acknowledged he was a little bit nervous Wednesday evening, just prior to a ceremony that was going to honor him and so many more like him — future members of the United States military.
“You’re here in front of all these people, publicly saying, ‘I will defend my country from everything that comes our way.’ It’s a very stressful thing, but it’s something I’m proud to be able to say,” Taylor said. “I’m defending not just my family, but my friends’ families.”
Taylor, a Washougal High School senior who has enlisted in the U.S. Space Force, was one of dozens of enlistees from Southwest Washington and Oregon who gave their ceremonial oaths of enlistment at Skyview High School.
They gathered to be part of the “Our Community Salutes” event, put on by the Community Military Appreciation Committee.
Retired officers, mayors from Clark County, other local leaders, and a first responder all praised the high school seniors who will be joining the military soon after graduation. They also thanked the parents, who will be making sacrifices, as well.
Judah Falcon of Ridgefield High School also is going into the Space Force. Falcon said he was drawn to the “brand new opportunity” of being part of the Space Force, which was founded in 2019. He, too, is grateful for a public show of support.
“I feel proud to be here. It’s a defining moment in my life to be here right now,” Falcon said.
Natasha Young of Battle Ground High School said she has a grandfather who was a general and two of her older sisters enlisted after high school.
“It’s something that runs in my family,” said Young, who is signing up to become a combat medic. “It’s kind of like a kickstart. It gives me a boost. It gives me a great life experience. I think it’s going to take me a really long way.”
Many of the enlistees at Wednesday’s ceremony had already given their oaths in private. On Wednesday, though, they could invite family and friends.
Gary Medvigy, a Clark County councilor, is a retired major general in the U.S. Army.
“I am so proud of your choice,” he told the enlistees. “Your community is so proud of your choice. … You are Clark County’s treasures.”
Dr. Jeff Snell, the superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, also gave words of encouragement.
“There will be times when you feel like you are right where you are supposed to be and then there’s going to be other times when you are just trying to find your way. That’s OK,” Snell said. “Enjoy the experience. Learn from the experience. Overcome challenges and look to other challenges. Seize the opportunities to shape your future and make a difference for others.”
Anne McEnerny-Ogle, the mayor of Vancouver, said service members live by three words: duty, honor, and country.
Then she challenged those who are not serving in the military to live the same way.
“To truly show these young men and women how much we appreciate what they are doing for all of us, it is important that we live by those three words,” she said. “When we decide to live with duty, honor, and country, we are paying homage to each and every one of the young men and women before us.”
Sarah Fox, a Vancouver city council member and a six-year veteran of the U.S. Army, was the featured speaker. She gave advice to the enlistees on how to thrive in the military.
“I will end with a truth that my 17-year-old self would have benefitted from hearing,” she said. “Your choice to join the military was the best decision of your life.”
(For Fox’s entire speech, click here: Army veteran — and Vancouver city council member — gives advice to new enlistees)
The young men and women then took their ceremonial oath of enlistment.
The ceremony ended with Rey Reynolds of the Vancouver Police Department singing his version of God Bless the U.S.A.