Daniel Diaz de Leon walked down Huntley’s Main Street in sync with his fellow U.S. Marine Corp recruits at the village’s Memorial Day parade.
Diaz de Leon is one of seven of ’s class of 2012 who are entering the Marine Corps after graduation. The group marched with Sun City Marines and Marine recruiter Sgt. Lawrence Prete.
“When we were marching, I heard one of them say this is one of the proudest moments of their lives,” said Prete, whose assignment includes visiting monthly. He works out of the Carpentersville recruiting office.
There are 15 students from the Class of 2012 heading off to the military who will be recognized at Saturday’s graduation.
The number of students entering the military has increased steadily, said Karen Miller, senior class advisor. Huntley High has photos of alumni serving in the military hanging in the school.
Prete began his assignment in January and helped recruit four seniors. He finds there are a lot of Huntley families with ties to the military, which makes their children want to continue the tradition, he said.
“It (the military) is like a family business out in Huntley,” Prete said. “I think that is the reason (teens) are very patriotic. A lot of those kids want to serve their country before they continue their lives.”
Nationally, the Defense Department reported “all four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal year-to-date 2012 through November,” according to its website.
Recruiters often find enrollment figures increase during a recession and that has been the case over the last few years, according to the Defense Department.
Prete has four seniors on standby waiting for a spots to open up. Huntley’s future Marines have bonded and formed friendships, Prete said.
“A lot of them are very dedicated,” Prete said. “They show up to the officer every way, whether to say ho or do a workout.”
The group has left behind their high school cliques, whether as jocks or band members, to form a new brotherhood, he said. “They have a strong sense of camaraderie before even having the title of Marine.”
While the Marines have a large contingent coming out of this year’s graduating class, there are other branches represented. Zachery Borring enlisted in the Air Force.
Each person has a different reason for enlisting but also shares a dedication to serving their country.
Borring has wanted to serve since he was a child.
He is in the final stages of enlisting and expects to head to basic training in September or October.
He has been thinking about joining since eighth grade. Borring has had a lot of family members in the military, the Marines and Air Force. He also was motivated by not having college debts since he will be able to get college paid. He wants to become a firefighter.
“I’ve always liked the idea you are doing what you have to do to keep this country free,” he said.
He is part of a generation that grew up living with war. Borring remembers being sent home from school on Sept. 11, 2001, and the images of that day. The war on terror has taken away some of their childhood, but it is how everyone has been raised.
“It makes kids realize people are dying every day,” he said. “You grow up with stories about people who won’t come home to their families. It makes our generation more patriotic.”
Diaz de Leon has gone through different stages of what he wants to be when he grows up. He wanted to joint the military when he was young. Then wanted to go to college and major in business. He ultimately decided to join the Marines.
“For me, the military is something honorable and make my family proud,” he said.
He is scheduled to leave for boot camp in March but hopes to move up that date to the fall. Diaz is ready to go and doesn’t focus on the stories that come out of places like Afghanistan.
“I know I can die no matter what I do,” Diaz de Leon said. “It’s something bigger than me. I am serving my country and doing stuff for others.”
Recruits have to accept the possibility of death and must be committed to the military, he said. “I know the consequences. I know what I’m facing. I’ve accepted everything.”
“I will miss high school but I am more looking forward to the future and the good things coming out of it,” he said.
Diaz de Leon will again stand tall and proud when his name is read at Saturday’s graduation as a future Marine.
“It makes me feel proud for people to look at me with that kind of respect and be proud of what I am doing,” he said.