Students commit to military service


Ann Pomeroy, Newtonian Editor-in-Chief

During the early release hour of Mar. 24, students, friends and family gathered in the library to celebrate the first-ever Newton High School Military signing day. This day, in particular, was to honor the enlistments of six seniors, Selena Aguilar (Kansas Army National Guard), Keaton Benedick (Kansas Army National Guard), Samuel Claassen (Kansas Army National Guard), Avery Dutcher (U.S. Army), Kylie Schwind (Kansas Army National Guard) and Issac Hernandez (U.S. Marine Corps).

The event was instigated by the parents of the signees who worked together with NHS administration to make sure all of the seniors could be recognized. The event consisted of individual recognitions, time for photos, refreshments and speeches given by the student’s recruiters.

“I thought [NHS signing day] was awesome,” Schwind said. “It’s something we’ll never forget.”

The four students who enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard (KSARNG) had been training together for months prior to the specific signing day, however, appreciated the recognition and time with loved ones. According to the National Guard website, students can begin enlisting once they have met the basic requirements of being 17 years of age and at least a junior in high school.

“[I first got involved with the KSARNG through] my friend Jacob Franco, [as he] asked if I wanted to talk to his recruiter,” Schwind said. “I absolutely love the KSARNG, but I think the hardest thing for everyone is the change and getting ready for basic training.”

A typical basic training lasts 10 weeks and is a time in which enlistees learn teamwork, discipline, how to handle a weapon, rappel and march. According to Military One Source the time is meant to be physically and mentally demanding and is expected to test one’s limits.

“[My biggest advice is] that although it’s a big commitment try not to be intimidated by the challenges it may bring, the person right next to you is going through everything with you,” Schwind said. “[If other students are interested in joining] they can message me and I can set them up with Staff Sergeant (SSG) Gilley, who is my recruiter or they can go on the KSARNG website and search for the local recruiter, who is Sergeant (SGT) Callaway I believe.”

The National Guard is a unique element of the United States military in that it serves both the community and the country as a whole. According to the National Guard website, the members of the National Guard respond to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counter drug efforts, reconstruction missions and more.

“[Something I am looking forward to with this new opportunity is getting] to meet people from all over the country and have those new experiences,” Schwind said.

Throughout the whole process of signing day, NHS enlistees expressed their gratitude for their family, friends and mentors. Each enlistee was given the opportunity to take pictures with their family and friends to remember the moment.

“My family is my biggest supporter and my friends who are enlisted also, and SSG Gilley of course, and all of my Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs),” Schwind said. “I think it would be harder without their support because everyone needs someone to push them.”

Through the KSARNG, at many colleges and universities in Kansas such as the University of Kansas, enlistees are eligible to receive 100% tuition and related fees up to $250 for each semester credit hour and up to $4,500 for each fiscal year. This financial aid is a motivating factor for many students to enlist in military services.

“They offer 100% in-state tuition but I’m not exactly sure if I want to go to college yet, but I plan on retiring and going on a few deployments,” Schwind said. “The best decision I’ve made was joining.”