HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A group of young north Alabama men and women are taking the steps in becoming soldiers, and while their proclamation is loud, another quieter voice was heard whose message spoke volumes.
Dozens of men and women line the top rows of seats at the Huntsville Stars stadium Saturday evening. They got there long before the game was scheduled to start.
They’re future soldiers. Soon though, an oath will eliminate that ‘future’ in front of that title. Roger McHugh is one of them. The 20-year-old from Morgan County says being a soldier is something he’s always wanted to do. ” I really want to work on aircraft, that’s what I really want to do. Rebuild the turbines, work on motors,” McHugh says.
Captain Eric Nelson devotes his time to recruiting young adults like McHugh in the Tennessee Valley. He says this step is the first of many.”They’re in our DEP program, our Delayed Enlistment Program, so they won’t actually become soldiers until they ship to what’s called initial entry training,” Captain Nelson says.
As the future soldiers wait, the stands slowly fill up. Finally, it’s time. One by one, they file onto the field. They stand in rows at attention, near the pitcher’s mound. They repeat back the words that swear them into service and ultimately, into that first step of becoming a soldier.
On the side, standing near the wall, 11-year-old Jason Ray watches the process. He’s wearing a purple jersey, with the name ‘Ray’ printed on the back. He’s with his family, and they stand close. Something Jason can’t see, is the letter Huntsville Stars General Manager Buck Rogers is holding. It’s pages of white paper, with Jason’s handwriting on it.
Those pages make up a letter to Rogers. “It’s been on my desk, waiting for tonight,” Rogers says, “November 20th he wrote it, I got it a couple days after.”
The letter was asking Rogers to do even more at the Stars game to recognize veterans and those serving in the armed forcers.
Rogers listened. The swearing-in service before the game is a culmination of a season’s worth of honoring those men and women who risk it all.
Tonight though, Jason is being honored too. Jason and Rogers stand in the middle of the field, and Rogers’ voice rings loud across the stadium. “Tonight we’re welcoming Jason out here to throw out the first pitch to thank him, because we know the younger generation gets a lot of bad rep sometimes, but I’ve got a feeling that if there’s more people like Jason, our country’s in pretty good hands,” Rogers speaks to the crowd. Jason stands up and throws a good one, and then turns smiling to his family.
It just goes to show patriotism can come in different forms – it can be proclaimed through an oath, or even written on two white sheets. Ultimately, no matter what form it takes, it’s a driving force that supports those who serve, or helps those men and women keep going.
Even if it’s through their first steps on that journey. “Really nervous, but excited as well,” McHugh says.