PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Many high school students decide to get into the workforce or pursue a college degree after graduating, but more students are trying something different. They are heading into different branches of the U.S. military.
“I’m joining the Army,” said Zachary Irwin, a graduating high school senior from Camden County, New Jersey.
CBS3 attended the ninth annual “Our Community Salutes of South Jersey” ceremony Tuesday night. There, more than two dozen seniors were honored as they finished their high school degrees and headed into the Armed Forces.
“Enlisting is on the rise right out of high school,” said Lt. Col. Edward Croot.
Croot is in charge of Army recruitment for the Mid-Atlantic States and says there is much less stigma associated with joining the military today than there was years ago.
“In my home state [of New Jersey], people didn’t understand that the military could be a successful career path. They had no idea,” said Croot.
“All they had a was a picture of infantry, armor, artillery, and special forces assignments. [People thought] ‘You’re going to Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s it.’ They had no idea their military is the largest company in the world. [There are] 150 career fields. You can do anything in the military,” he continued.
Croot says he’s seeing students from more diverse backgrounds join the military. It can also be a very smart financial decision for both students and their families.
“I was able to secure a four year national scholarship to Bucknell [University],” said one enlisted senior.
“With the Air Force, he’s going to get what he wants in life and he’s going to help us by not putting us financially in the hole,” said Vince D’Antonio. His son, Michael, is starting his tour of duty with the United States Air Force this summer.
Croot says joining the military can also allow students to better fine tune what they’re interested in pursuing as a career. Some even decide to pursue a military career, but he says those that go back into civilian life often have less of a financial burden than their counterparts who attended college directly after high school.
“There are a lot of different things you can do in all the services that can probably be an accelerant, both financially and experience-wise, to where your daughter or son wants to go,” said Croot.