By Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 12, 2023) — High school students from across South-Central Missouri were celebrated Wednesday night for volunteering to serve as future military members at the Community Salute to Service event in Waynesville High School’s gymnasium.
The presentation recognized 54 high school seniors who are joining a branch of the military, National Guard or Reserve, who are attending a college ROTC program, or who have received an appointment to a military academy.
Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, served as the keynote speaker.
“Thank you for choosing to serve. I want to put emphasis on the word — choose. The United States is a nation that is dependent on young people like you — volunteers. This year marks the 50th anniversary of an all-volunteer force. You represent that volunteer spirit,” Brito said.
“It is important for leaders like us to recruit and retain talented men and women who make up our armed services and serve the greatest military the world has ever seen,” Brito added. “You all here today are proof that we are at the top of our game and will continue to be the greatest military the world has ever seen.”
Brito said he was impressed with the relationship between Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding community.
“In order to have a good unit and good service, and good Army in this case, you must have a good relationship with the community. You do indeed represent that. I commend you and thank you for that,” Brito said. “Events like this are so important. The connection is strong, and it is represented here tonight.”
Providing additional remarks were Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe; Maj. Gen. James Bonner, commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood; and Dr. Kari Monsees, deputy commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Waynesville R-VI School District Superintendent Hilary Bales hosted the presentation.
Also in attendance, for the first time, were nearly 100 civilian aides to the Secretary of the Army, commonly called CASAs. They are business and community leaders appointed by the Army Secretary to advise and support Army leaders across the country. They serve without a salary, and each state has at least one. Missouri currently has two — one for the western portions of the state, and one for the east.
Students were individually recognized by the branch of the military they are joining: Bonner congratulated students joining the U.S. Army, Army ROTC and those with appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as they crossed the stage; Rolla, Missouri-native, Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels, chief of the Army Reserve and commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, congratulated the students joining the Army Reserve; Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, congratulated the students joining the National Guard; Marine Maj. Aaron Meek, operations officer for the Fort Leonard Wood Marine Corps Detachment, congratulated the students that are joining the U.S. Marine Corps; Navy Lt. Joshua Lamb, officer-in-charge of the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Fort Leonard Wood, congratulated students joining the Navy and those with appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy; and Air Force Lt. Col. Benjamin Carlson, 368th Training Squadron commander, congratulated students joining the Air Force and those with appointments the U.S. Air Force Academy.
During the event, Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band provided live music, and Waynesville High School’s Junior ROTC color guard posted the colors.
One of the Junior ROTC students who participated in the color guard was 18-year-old Waynesville High School senior and future Soldier, Zachary Remedies. He said is excited to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Army.
“It makes me feel proud. I am going to basic training in Fort Jackson (South Carolina), then I’m headed to advanced individual training in Virginia to be a paralegal specialist,” Remedies said.
As one military career starts, another in his family comes to an end. Remedies’ father, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Knaack, with Fort Leonard Wood’s Combat Training Company, is retiring in two weeks. Knaack said it was an honor to watch his son walk across the stage and be celebrated for his commitment to serve.
“I have to say it gave me tears a little bit,” Knaack said. “He has been such a blessing. I am not worried about him at all. He has always been a self-motivating young man.”
Knaack said he is in awe of the support the students received from the community and thinks it is a special way for them to begin their military careers.
“It was amazing to watch these young men and women walk across the stage to step up and serve their country. Our community is a symbol of strength. It is outstanding to see everybody come out and support them like this,” Knaack said. “I am originally from east Tennessee, the Volunteer State. I will never forget when I came home from basic training, there were lots of people that showed their appreciation and it warmed my heart. That was great, but not a large event like this. Because I will never forget it, I know he will never forget tonight.”
In his speech, Brito took a moment to thank the parents, guardians and families in attendance.
“Thank you for helping to them to think about the service and think about things bigger than themselves. Thank you most of all for sharing these young men and women with the United States military,” Brito said.
He closed with words of advice and well wishes for the future service members.
“Our military, all services, is made of great people. This is a people business. As you embark on your journey, which will indeed be an incredible journey, I ask that you cherish the experiences you will have, cherish the skills you will gain, take advantage of the camaraderie and friendships and pride.” Brito said. “Trust your teammates and always have a battle buddy. Be the best that you can be. Your battle buddies expect that of you and your service expects that of you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and always seek self-improvement. Keep inspiring others as you continue this journey. Welcome to the great United States military and welcome to a great team. Victory starts here. Be the best you can be.”
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission