Soon-to-be West Valley graduates who have committed to military service were honored during the second annual Induction Ceremony April 28 at Calvary Church in Glendale.
The event was hosted by the Glendale Office of the Mayor and the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Military & Veterans Affairs Committee.
The ceremony began with remarks from Master of Ceremonies Jeffery J. Turner, Glendale Chamber of Commerce Military & Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, followed by the posting of the colors by the Civil Air Patrol, 388th Composite Squadron.
Sounds of the Southwest Singers Community Choir sang the national anthem, an invocation was given by the Rev. Mark Martin of Calvary Church, and the choir then sang “America the Beautiful.”
Opening remarks were delivered by Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, who told the recruits, “Today, you are doing the right thing. Your community appreciates you and we have your back.”
Next, a video was played of Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kwiatkowski, command chief of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, performing the song “Heroes” written by Mike Munsterman of Renegade Rail.
Certificates and challenge coins were handed out, starting with Army recruits, who outnumbered the other three branches of recruits nearly two to one.
Weiers explained that challenge coins date back to World War I and that a commander or someone up the command chain would present one to recognize a special achievement. He said it could be for courage or for showing leadership, honesty or anything that recognizes the recipient as exceptional.
“Often times, you can’t give someone an increase in pay, or a promotion in rank, so the challenge coin is a very special recognition for something extraordinary,” he said. “The most important stamp on the coin is where it says: ‘The First To Say Thank You.’”
Lt. Col. David Clukey, U.S. Army Phoenix Recruiting Battalion commander, said, “Events like this are crucial,” adding that 70 percent of high schoolers don’t qualify for military service, with obesity accounting for the majority of disqualifications.
He listed five characteristics of veterans, the first being, “Veterans can learn anything on the fly,” he said.
No. 2 is punctuality, he said, adding, “If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.”
No. 3: courtesy to superiors.
“Nobody knows chain of command like a veteran,” he said.
No. 4 is loyalty and No. 5 is work ethic, he said, explaining that a veteran will shoulder more than his task.
Maj. Scott Stewart, commanding officer, Marine Corps Recruiting Station Phoenix, spoke before Marine recruits were given their certificates and challenge coins.
He applauded the recruits for volunteering “when volunteering isn’t the most popular thing to do,” he said, adding, “I’m proud of all of you.”
Chief Master Sgt. Ronnie Woods of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke took the podium before the Air Force recruits were acknowledged.
He said joining the military isn’t an easy decision to make, but the support the recruits have been shown by their family, friends and the community has made the decision easier.
“You are now part of an elite organization,” he said, referring to members of the armed forces as the “1 percenters.”
“You’re the best of the best,” he said. “Your sacrifices will exceed that of a normal American.”
Woods shared a story of a boy throwing starfish on a beach back into the ocean when an old man approached him and asked why he was doing it. The boy said he was throwing them back in so they wouldn’t die. The old man said there were too many and that it wouldn’t make a difference, when the boy picked one up, threw it in and said, “I just made a difference for that one.” Woods said the recruits “are that little boy.”
Navy recruits, who numbered half as many as Marine Corps and Air Force and less than a quarter as Army, were the last to receive their certificates and coins.
Chief Petty Officer Dominic Guilliano said success is gauged through a great deal of sacrifice.
No Coast Guard recruits from the West Valley were at the ceremony.
The event concluded with the recruits taking a ceremonial oath administered by Clukey, the choir singing “Salute to the Armed Services” — with recruits and audience members from each branch joining in — and “God Bless America,” closing remarks and the retiring of the colors.