ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — There was a signing event in Rockford Tuesday night for some special students who will become educators themselves.
Another signing event took place on Wednesday, but it was not for athletes or future teachers. Jefferson High School held a ceremony for graduating seniors who will be enlisting into one of the branches of the U.S. military.
It was a special time to recognize the students who will be serving the country.
“It’s important to me that the parents get a picture of their kid before they go off to the training and move around the world, wherever they’re going,” said David Bardwell, organizer and biology teacher at Jefferson.
Family, friends and recruiters celebrated 15 Jefferson seniors who are enlisting in the military. Throughout the year, recruits spend one weekend a month training.
Some of the seniors actually enlisted last year and have already completed boot camp.
“No one else out there in the world has actually, you know, been in a little foxhole,” said Sergeant Oliver Prado, National Guard recruiter. “You know, you always have that bond with that person next to you for the rest of your life, because we’ve both been through it.”
Bardwell started the celebration eight years ago after his son joined the military.
“I think it’s real important to recognize them, because we have a lot of kids going into athletics and the kids are going into athletics get their night, and I wanted to make sure that the military kids had a chance to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s for sure something. I always try to make sure the kids have their night to show off.”
The seniors have made connections and will have people to reach out to in the future.
“It’s a really great feeling. I mean, I’ve been I’ve been around here for four years. So, just the start of their career, so I’m excited to see what’s in their future,” Prado said. “I’m big on helping them out after, you know, when they get back, making sure that they go to college and, or university, or just guide them.”
As a veteran himself, Bardwell has a new bond with his students.
“As a teacher, they’re my kids at the start, but as a military prior service member, they’re my brothers and sisters, so it’s beyond… It’s a pride thing for me, and that’s why I make sure I put this on every year,” he said.
The graduates also get a red, white and blue cord to wear at graduation, where they will be recognized during the ceremony.