HARKER HEIGHTS — A total of 23 Harker Heights High School seniors received a special recognition on Friday during the school’s annual Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony at the school’s auditorium.
The students had all chosen to join the armed forces after graduation.
Jean Shine, the Fort Hood area civilian aid to the secretary of the Army, enlisted the assistance of the school, Killeen Independent School District and U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in recognizing those students’ dedication to their nation by joining the 1% of their peers who choose to serve.
“The Secretary of the Army (Mark Esper) really wants us to promote recruitment, because they are the brightest of the brightest,” said Shine. “These are truly remarkable kids, so we tried to think of a way to recognize them. The first thing I thought of was a letter from their congressman, and Congressman Carter just jumped on that — he was writing up a letter before he even got off the phone with me.”
The young enlistees were presented the letter from the congressman on stage — with a personalized handwritten note from the congressman added to each — by Harker Heights Army recruiters, Shine and Carter’s district field representative, Cheryl Hassmann. They will also be authorized to wear a red, white and blue cord to wear at their upcoming high school graduation.
The idea to recognize the youth is already spreading like wildfire to other school districts in the state, Shine said.
“All the districts from Round Rock to Waco, Lampassas to Gatesville are doing it,” she said. “I have been contacted by Del Rio and some west Texas towns as well, and we’re sending them our outline of everything we’re doing.”
For the students, the extra recognition was an honor.
“It feels really good. I feel privileged to be recognized by someone as high as a member of congress,” said Avery Schroeder, an 18-year-old senior who enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. “My whole family has been in the military, so (I joined) to uphold the tradition in the family. It’s also nice to be a part of something that is bigger than myself.”
For senior Hezekiah Robinson, 18, joining the Army is also a family affair.
“This was an honor,” said Robinson, who will serve as a motor transport operator in the Army after completing training. “This is something I’m doing to prove to myself and my family just what I can do. I’m looking forward to (basic training).”