SAN ANTONIO (NNS) -- More than 700 future service members, their families, educators, business leaders and the military gathered in the Rosenberg Sky Room at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) to participate in "A Night in Your Honor" hosted by Our Community Salutes-San Antonio (OCS), May 16.
The program, which is a part of the city's Tricentennial Celebration, began with a welcome by Dr. Cyndi Porter, president of OCS, who introduced her husband, Vincent Porter, dean, School of Extended Studies for UIW, who served as master of ceremonies.
The Presentation of Colors was conducted by Brackenridge High School's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard and the national anthem was Navy Counselor 1st Class Steven Comacho of Navy Recruiting District San Antonio.
Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, director of the city's Office of Military Affairs, delivered a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Ron Nirenberg declaring May 16th as Our Community Salutes Day.
After dinner, which was sponsored by H-E-B, the keynote speaker, retired Fleet Master Chief April Beldo of Lancaster, California, delivered her remarks.
"There are approximately 34 million young men and women between the ages of 17 and 24," said Beldo, who was the first African-American female command master chief of an aircraft carrier and Navy Recruit Training Command. "Out of that 34 million, approximately 25 percent are eligible to join the military. And out of that 25 percent, less than one percent chose to do what you all have chosen to do."
Beldo, who served more than 33 years in America's Navy, not only directed her speech towards the honorees but also their parents.
"Yes! They are about to go somewhere," Beldo exclaimed. "Because there are going to be some opportunities bestowed upon them that they probably may not be able to have unless they joined this military family."
With the guest speaker's remarks completed, the 2018 Colin Powell Award was presented to Shana Dillon of Boerne Independent School District (ISD) by Katie Reed, a trustee with North ISD School Board.
After the presentation, a history of the challenge coin was presented by Shaun Kennedy, board chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and regional chairman of Texas Capital Bank.
Then representatives from each military service presented OCS certificates to more than 250 honorees.
Additionally, each future service member was presented with their first challenge coin, sponsored by USAA.
Prior to the start of the program, OCS hosted a community fair where the honorees and their families could receive valuable resource information and the opportunity to register to vote in Bexar County.
Our Community Salutes is a non-profit organization created in 2009 by Dr. Kenneth E. Hartman to recognize and honor local graduating high school seniors who plan to enlist in the military after high school graduation. OCS also provides future service members and their families with access to educational resources and connects them with military support groups.
Dr. Porter stated that is important that enlistees and parents know about the support systems that are out there to provide help to service members when needed.
According to Dr. Porter, the event could not have been successful without the support of the OCS committee, sponsors, community support organizations and volunteers.
Initially beginning as one ceremony in southern New Jersey in 2009, OCS ceremonies have spread across the nation. The ceremonies are planned and executed by volunteers, including military veterans, high school and college educators, local businesses, community leaders and active duty military personnel.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrc/.