May 25, 2014

For several area students, graduation starts military life

By Christopher Smith

— This group of high school students came from different walks of life, but they have two things in common. They’ve each signed on with a branch of the U.S. military and they each know their hometown has their back.

Students, staff, family and friends united at several high schools recently to recognize those who have signed with the military, including students from Coahulla Creek High School and North Whitfield High School in Whitfield County and North Murray High School in Murray County.

For Dylan Richards of Northwest, joining the military was something he’d waited for since seventh-grade, he said. But he didn’t know he had the self-determination it would take until a Boy Scouts trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., some 137,500 acres of rocky terrain.

“It was just rough,” he said, thinking back. “I was struggling mentally to keep going.”

Then a storm hit somewhere in the middle of his 10-day hike.

“My feet were killing me. It was cold,” he said. “The weather was so bad. But I pulled through it. Our crew, about nine others, worked together and pushed on together.”

Then the weather broke and the sun came out.

“After that I was OK,” he said. “To finish was awesome. It was a great part of my life. I cherish that whole trip. That’s what kind of confirmed it, that I wanted to go into the military.”

Evelyn Botello, Coahulla Creek’s homecoming queen this school year, said thinking about entering the military makes her cry.

“But not because I’m sad,” she said. “Because I am excited.”

She will also join the National Guard this summer and hopes to one day be in the Navy.

“I get to go somewhere new and I get to do things I’ve never been able to do,” she said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I just have the urge to help people. I wouldn’t really be living my life if I didn’t go out and help others. I feel we’ve been put on this Earth to be servants to the Lord. This is me giving back to him by helping others.”

Joey Jones of North Murray, who is joining the Marines, said most new recruits are “very nervous.”

“But it is exciting,” he said. “I mean, it’s going to be hectic to get through basic. And, you know, deployment is also on our minds. We watch the news. We know what’s going on in the world. It’s a lot of unknown right now and it can get scary.”

But it’s worth it, Jones added.

“I mean, it’s belonging to something bigger than yourself,” he said. “And that’s what this is about.”