BRIDGEWATER — As Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School students filtered into the school to go to class, a dozen seniors gathered in the cafeteria for a celebratory breakfast Tuesday morning.
During the time of year where students are celebrated for academic achievements, college acceptances and signing letters of intent for college sports teams, school officials wanted to acknowledge the high school seniors who chose a different path: joining the military.
“To be an 18-year-old, to go into the military is a very difficult thing,” Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School Committee member Jason Hammond said. “If they know they have the support back home, it may make it a little easier for them.”
Hammond is a veteran himself, he said, having served 9 1/2 years in the Air Force. He was the one who organized the breakfast and awards ceremony for the students, pulling it together in less than two weeks and school officials were quickly on board with the idea.
“We felt as though they deserved the recognition because they’re about to enter a very selfless act to defend our great country,” Bridgewater-Raynham Superintendent Derek Swenson said. “It’s something that unfortunately goes unrecognized this time of year.”
The students were each gifted a “certificate of appreciation” made and awarded to them by Raynham Veteran’s Agent Micaila Britto.
Britto said the breakfast was a great way to honor the students, and noted it was especially great to see two female students going into the military.
“When we get out of our service, we just kind of blend in,” she said. “People go up and thank the guys for their service and usually think we’re the wife or the girlfriend, not the veteran.”
One of those students, 18-year-old Dayana Pinto from Raynham, who enlisted in the Army National Guard in January, said it’s been a longtime goal of hers to join the military.
“My stepdad was a veteran,” she said. “I’m very proud and that’s why I want to join.”
A few of the other students said they came from a military family, including 18-year-old Collin Shay from Bridgewater. Shay, who is joining the Marine Corps, said he couldn’t picture himself doing anything else.
“It’s the greatest thing someone can do with their life, I think,” he said. “We get to live in this great country with all these opportunities.”
When asked why he wanted to serve, 18-year-old Brandon Correira of Bridgewater, who is joining the Army, was ready with a list of reasons.
“College benefits, selflessness, service,” he said. “I’m ready.”
“There’s no other better thing than to serve your country,” 17-year-old Kyle Rec of Bridgewater, who is joining ROTC at Worcester State University, added.
“Since he became such a good person, I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Cloutier said.
Bridgewater-Raynham 2018 graduate Curt Pina, 19, of Raynham also returned to the high school to tell students about his day-to-day experiences in the Air Force.
It’s a big decision coming out of high school, Pina said, but given the chance to go back to when he was in their place, he said he would “do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Hammond says they plan to make the breakfast an annual event and should be setting up a date for next year’s event within a few weeks.
Staff writer Corlyn Voorhees can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org