OCEAN CITY — John DeYoung likes the dress uniform and the image of the Marines. Jessica Therrien enlisted in the Navy for help with college tuition. Malia Hindle is following family tradition by attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
These three students are among eight seniors in Ocean City High School’s Class of 2015 who have chosen military service as their path after graduation. Some had mere days after they collected their diplomas Friday before leaving for boot camp or the academy equivalent.
“I always saw the Marines as something I wanted to do,” said DeYoung, 19, of Ocean City, who hopes to turn his four-year active duty and four-year reserves commitment into a 20-year military career. “It was the uniform that drew me in, and the toughness. I want to travel the world.”
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“We’re part of the few,” said Luke Cuomo, 18, of Marmora in Upper Township, referring to classmates DeYoung and Travis Pierpoint, 18, and Jeremy Grund, 17, also of Marmora. “The Marines are elite.”
Five seniors have enlisted with the Marines, including one student who didn’t wish to be interviewed for this story. In addition to Therrien, 18, and Hindle, 17, both of Seaville in Upper Township, Lindsey Wan, 18, of Palermo in Upper Township, is following a similar path with an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
The enlistees each received a $250 scholarship from American Legion Post 524 in Ocean City, the greatest number of OCHS grads to select the military in five years and the most money the post has awarded, Commander Bob Marzulli said. Most years, the post gives a scholarship to a male and female student whose family has a military connection.
“They all felt such an obligation to the military and their country,” Marzulli said. “We felt we have people going out (into service), we wanted to do something special.”
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It was during the high school’s annual senior awards ceremony that Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said she became aware that eight of this year’s 330 graduates are headed for the military.
“One after another, their names were called, and I thought it was really neat,” she said.
As of June 2015, six graduates from Atlantic County, four from Cape May County and five from Cumberland County have enlisted in the Air Force, said Christa D’Andrea, chief of public affairs for the Air Force Recruiting Service. Requests for current enlistment figures by county were not answered by the Coast Guard, Marines, Navy or Army.
The top three reasons a graduate gives for joining the military right out of high school are experience, education and independence, said D’Andrea of the Air Force. Having large military installments nearby, such as New Jersey does with McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix and the Coast Guard Training Center, also helps with recruitment, she said.
For Cuomo, who enlisted in the Marines last summer, the military is a way of life for his family. His grandfather served in World War II in Japan, and his older brother, Francis, joined the Marines in 2013.
“Seeing his graduation at Parris Island really motivated me,” said Cuomo. “I hadn’t seen him in three months, so it was pretty emotional.”
Hindle, whose father was a 1990 Coast Guard graduate, said she has grown up her entire life with the military academy tradition. She said she plans to major in marine environmental science.
“I wanted to do my time for my country,” said Pierpoint, whose commitment to the Marines is four years of active duty and four years in the reserves.
“I want to do my part for my country,” said Grund, who will serve six years in the Marines in the reserves.
“Part of the reason I wanted to do it is college is really expensive, and I’m kind of broke,” Therrien said. “Plus, I like the values of the Navy.” She said she would like a career with the FBI after fulfilling her obligation.
“I really like the college, the way it is structured and organized,” Wan said of the Naval Academy, adding those attributes fit her approach to academics. “Everyone there is so driven. It’s inspiring to be around people who want to do their best.”
She said she would like to major in oceanography.
“For our students, I believe today’s military could very well offer outstanding opportunities in terms of career and technical training,” OCHS Principal Matthew Jamison said. “I feel many of our students may find it in their best interest to explore what the military has to offer in career and training for those specialized skills.”