Dozens of Fairfax County high school seniors gathered Wednesday evening to be honored for their commitment to enlist in the military after graduation.
It was the second annual such event organized by the Northern Virginia chapter of Our Community Salutes, a group that puts together independent graduation ceremonies to recognize enlistees and their parents.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Christine Zinser, who founded the regional chapter last year after her 17-year-old son enlisted in the Marine Corps. “We need this recognition for our kids.”
In March, Zinser’s advocacy helped prompt the Fairfax school board to require high schools to recognize military-bound students during commencement exercises.
Military-bound graduates are too often overlooked, she said, in a county where families tend to aim for the Ivy League instead of the infantry.
More than 90 Fairfax County seniors have enlisted in one of the armed forces. Zinser said that about 70 were expected to attend Wednesday’s ceremony, which was emceed by local NBC News anchor Aaron Gilchrist.
George Mason University donated the use of its Dewberry Hall, where the soon-to-be-graduates had a chance before the ceremony to sample hors d’oeuvres and mingle with uniformed service members.
”To be recognized is kind of cool,” said Lake Braddock senior Colin Tribble, who is headed into the Marine Corps.
“It’s not that I wasn’t academically qualified for college,” said Tribble. He was admitted to schools including George Mason, but “I decided I wasn’t quite ready for college,” he said, “and I didn’t want to lay around for four years.”
Tribble’s mother, Mary Woods, said she tried to talk her son out of joining the military. But now she respects and admires his choice, she said, and is grateful for the chance to celebrate it.
“As much as I would have preferred him to choose a safer path, I’m really proud of him,” she said.