Students in the armed forces


Senior Maya Smith salutes in her Young Marines Program. Photo courtesy of Maya Smith.

Elizabeth Bulat, Editor-in-Chief

Every Wednesday, and again every other weekend, senior Maya Smith goes to Selfridge Air National Guard base in Macomb County to train for the Young Marines. She has been a part of this program for three years and participates to serve her country and learn what it takes to be a Marine in the future.

Through Smith’s experiences, she has been able to serve her country and learn about teamwork, leadership and discipline. Being a member of the Young Marines has also prepared her to serve for the Marines in the future by providing her with knowledge of Marine drills, history and expectations.

“The most important thing I’ve learned as a Young Marine is the power of a team over an individual. To reach higher senior rankings, Young Marines have to attend week long summer boot camps called Leadership Schools, and there I did several fitness and drill activities with YMs from around the country I had never met,” Smith said. “Learning how to band all different kinds of people together to reach a common goal is something I know I will need all throughout my life.”

Being a part of the Young Marines has also provided Smith with opportunities for her future both academically and militarily. Smith was awarded the National Four Year Marine NROTC Scholarship through her Young Marines program. After graduation she will attend Miami University of Ohio and train with Naval Marine Reserve Officer Training Courses while she takes classes to earn her four-year degree. She hopes to join the Marines and become a Marine Officer after college.

“The Young Marines has given me the opportunity to travel the country and taught me essential discipline and communication skills as well as patience,” Smith said. “It has also made it easier for me to access information about military and college opportunities because all the adult staff members are veterans.”

After graduation, some students go to serve in the Armed Forces instead of attending college right away. Among these students is Owen Fisher, a member of RHS’s Class of 2018 who recently attended bootcamp and joined the Army. He believes that everyone should serve their country in some capacity and feels that he is fulfilling his duty as a citizen by joining the Armed Forces.

“I’ve done a lot of things 99 percent of the population will never do, like use military weapons, extreme discipline, got to ride in a helicopter and land tanks,” Fisher said. “I learned a lot from my drill sergeants about life, like always hold yourself to a very high standard, and what it means to want to serve your country.”

Senior Erica Straus is dating Fisher, and they stayed together when he went to bootcamp for four months. They stayed in touch through letters over the months, and Straus is very proud of her boyfriend’s commitment to his country. She also encourages students who may be contemplating joining the army by reassuring them that strong friendships and relationships will persevere during the months of training.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Straus said. “I think the people that will stick around will keep up communication and remain friends through the boot camp and possible deployments.  It’s not easy for couples, but hey, if you really like or love the person, it is 100 percent worth it.”

Assistant principal Mr. Casey Wescott is also very encouraging to students who are interested in serving their country after graduation. He thinks that it is important for students to be aware of a plethora of options after graduation. He helps to organize regular visits for Military Recruiters to come to RHS during students’ lunch. The recruiter is then able to talk to students who are interested in joining the military and encourage them to pursue joining the Armed Forces. Having a recruiter come to RHS provides students with information and confidence when making the decision to join the Military in the future.

“I don’t think that enough students actually realize all of the benefits that the Air Guard has to offer and how it can assist them with achieving their personal and professional goals,” Air Guard Recruiter Raymond Stier said. “It is hard to describe the personal satisfaction and pride that is developed by becoming a proud member of the Air Guard.”

Senior Dean Raciti plans to join the Marines after he graduates high school this spring. He has enlisted for six years and is enthusiastic about the lessons he will learn and the experiences he will face. Raciti is also looking forward to meeting people who have similar values and goals as he does.

“I decided to enlist in the military, because I felt it was an obligation to serve my nation, which has given me everything I love and value. I do it for God, for family, for friends and for country,” Raciti said. “I chose the Marine Corps specifically because of its rich history, and its determination towards defending the United States, as well as the fact all Marines are rifleman, which means if the time comes, all Marines are capable of fighting its nations battles.”

The military provides those who enlist  with social and economic benefits. This may be a motivating factor for students to enter, especially due to college’s demanding cost. The military can eliminate or mitigate student’s financial needs.

“There’s obviously the benefit of serving the country and protecting the American population, which is extremely respectable and not something many get to do, but you can also make a career out of it, get student benefits, healthcare, etc,” Straus said. “It’s an overall great opportunity, and you don’t have to fully commit if you want to pursue an education and civilian job.”

Raciti looks forward to serving his country, but offers a word of caution to those who are interested in joining. He advises students to develop a plan for their future after their time of service. He also emphasizes communicating with family before enlisting, and most importantly, speaking to a recruiter, who can provide a lot of  information about this life-changing decision. However, he warns that some recruiters may ignore some of the negative aspects of serving.

“Think of your decision before you sign that dotted line. Know the risks of enlistment. Enlisting in the military is honorable, and takes big commitment that should not be taken lightly,” Racetti said. “Join a branch which you envision yourself in. Every branch has its own purpose. Do not enlist in the military if you are trying to boost your ego, or trying to make yourself seem bigger in the eyes of others. You will get hit hard and fast by reality, and be miserable in your years of service.”

Fisher also has advice to students who are debating joining the Armed Forces. Like college or a trade school, Fisher sees entering the military as a rewarding and respected option for after graduation. He encourages students to take advantage of this opportunity if they are interested in serving their country.

“If you’ve felt the call to serve, it’s probably your gut telling you to go experience some crazy things. You won’t regret it,” Fisher said. “It was a hard four  months being at basic, but it’s all worth it when you see your family in your dress blues and you know what you just accomplished.”