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May 31, 2019 2:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

High School Seniors Entering U.S. Military Honored At Hampton Bays High School On Friday

The 12 seniors entering the U.S. Military were honored at the Hampton Bays High School on Friday. VALERIE GORDON PHOTOS
Jun 4, 2019 1:03 PM

Seniors from the Westhampton Beach, Hampton Bays and Southampton high schools proudly stood on stage, tightly gripping plaques and American flags, as cameras clicked and flashed—hoping to capture the moment when they were recognized for decisions to enlist in the U.S. military.Twelve East End high school seniors were honored at Hampton Bays High School on Friday, commemorating the East End’s first ceremony recognizing the students’ decision to enlist in the U.S. military, including the Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force.

For Kevin McNamara, it marked a step in the next direction—one that he has been looking forward to for months.

He first met with his recruitment officer, Peter McCarthy, as a senior at Hampton Bays High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry Division shortly after, following in his uncle Kurt Warner’s footsteps.

“I’m just excited—I can’t wait to go,” he said.

However, his mother, Amy McNamara, is not so eager for her son’s July 8 departure to Fort Benning in Georgia.

“I have many different emotions. I’m very proud of Kevin—I’m going to miss him tremendously,” she said. “Ever since eighth grade, he would say, ‘I’m not going to college, I’m going into the military.’… It’s fast approaching for all of us.”

Mr. McNamara’s fellow classmate Michael Blanco is forging his own path as the first member of his family to enlist in the military.

Entering senior year, he said that he was still unsure of what college he wanted to attend. That’s when he started debating the idea of enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

“I’m excited—I want to leave,” he said. “If I could leave for boot camp right now, I would.”

He will, however, miss his friends—who he said have become his family over the course of his high school career. “It’s going to be a bunch of new people—people I’ve never met before,” he said.

However, the former varsity wrestler said that he expects those strangers to soon become his next family. “I feel like it will be how wrestling was,” he said. “I’m excited.”

Hampton Bays High School senior Daniel Grisales is equally as excited to begin his training as a U.S. Marine. “I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life—a little scared, but I’ll get through it,” he said.

Originally, Mr. Grisales thought he would enroll at Suffolk County Community College, a first step in becoming a police officer. But after careful deliberation, and several meetings with recruitment officers from the Army and the Marines, he chose the latter.

Mr. Grisales’s father, Arnulfo Grisales, served in the military in his native Colombia, and his uncle, John Grisales, served in the U.S. Army.

“It’s always been something that I had in the back of my mind,” he said, standing outside the Hampton Bays High School auditorium, referring to his family’s military service. “I just felt at home with the Marines.”

At Friday’s ceremony—coordinated by Southampton, Westhampton Beach and Hampton Bays district officials—Hampton Bays Superintendent Lars Clemensen thanked the 12 high school seniors for their upcoming service to the country.

He added that fewer than 1 percent of eligible men and women enter the U.S. military every year.

“Sitting before you are the 1 percent,” he said. “Each, when faced with choosing the path that leads from the graduation stage next month, chose a career of service to our nation.”

He equally thanked the students’ parents and family members: “The people in the audience are the foundation for why these young people are sitting on the stage today.”

William Hughes, commander of VFW Post 5350 in Westhampton Beach, left the students with a message: “Try to remember that, in the beginning, obey the rules … You’ll get a chance as you grow to color outside the lines,” he said. “That simple advice worked for me. Your association with the U.S. military will last forever.”

The students honored were: from Hampton Bays, Michael Blanco (Navy), Daniel Grisales (Marines) and Kevin McNamara (Army); from Westhampton Beach, Christina Marsicano (Marines) and Jane Alavez (Army); and from Southampton, David Nava (Marines), Nicholas Maddock (Army), Thomas Gabriele (Army), Jason Villa Ortega (Marines), Austin Elliston (Navy), and brothers Bhupati and Bhuvaneshar Ramkhelawan (Air Force).

Each of the 12 students received proclamations from State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

Additionally, they were each awarded a $250 scholarship to help cover any impending costs associated with their enlistment. As their families joined their children on stage, they were presented with a “Blue Star Flag”—the symbol of a family with a child in service.

Ms. McNamara, who was honored specifically by Mr. McCarthy toward the conclusion of the ceremony, said she is looking forward to attending her son’s graduation from basic training: “I look forward to seeing what Kevin has to offer for the service.”

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Thank you one and all!
By bigfresh (4374), north sea on May 31, 19 8:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
As a former SH student and a USAF veteran I salute you all for your choices. I chose the military over college and received a great education and a great career on long island.
By knitter (1720), Southampton on May 31, 19 8:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
A great way to acknowledge the young men and women of the local graduating classes who are joining the military to serve our country and may be giving their lives to protect our country. We always acknowledge the young men and women who are attending college, which is wonderful, but it is nice to acknowledge the choices of others......college, military, career. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
By leo (19), hampton Bays on Jun 1, 19 10:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
PATRIOTS !!!!!!!
By themarlinspike (349), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 2, 19 1:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
The united states has been at war for my entire life - from the day i was born through today.
Amazing. Sad.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (686), southampton on Jun 10, 19 3:45 PM
Congratulations to all on your decision to serve our country and all the best in your endeavors.

Outstanding!
By Po Boy (4263), Water Mill on Jun 10, 19 8:08 PM
1 member liked this comment