PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Three Presque Isle High School students were among more than 1,000 sworn in to the U.S. military by International Space Station astronaut Andrew Morgan Wednesday.
Khalil Commodore and Bobbi Jo Rakes were sworn in to the U.S. Army, while Josh Kawalansky was sworn in to the U.S. Marine Corps in front of an audience of close to 500. It consisted of the entire student body of Presque Isle High School, along with several faculty members and other guests, including SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw.
The three future service members stood at ease with their backs to the audience during the ceremony, which lasted about 30 minutes. They faced a large projector featuring a live broadcast of U.S. Army Recruiting Command Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis and Morgan, live from the International Space Station.
Before giving the oath, Morgan spoke about his time in the Army, in which he currently holds the rank of colonel.
“I made the decision when I was 18 years old to raise my right hand just like you’re about to,” Morgan said. “I am here as a direct result of the opportunities I had in the Army. I’m a soldier through and through.”
Morgan then gave the oath to the Presque Isle students, along with more than 1,000 other prospective service members across the country.
Jessica Meir, who is from nearby Caribou and also aboard the International Space Station, did not participate in the ceremony.
Alyssa Salmon, chief of advertising and public affairs at the U.S. Army New England Recruiting Battalion, said that the event had come about because of Morgan’s experience in the Army. Meir has never served in the U.S. military.
Presque Isle High School Principal David Bartlett said that he saw the ceremony as an opportunity for students to bear witness to a memorable moment for three of their classmates blasted over a feed from space to Aroostook County.
“It’s not often that we get to communicate with the International Space Station, let alone see a ceremony such as this,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett said the military recruiters of the students became aware of the ceremony and saw an opportunity for the students, and their high school, to take part. The recruiters were able to get Presque Isle High School involved by contacting NASA.
There were a few service members on-hand at the ceremony itself. As other students went to their next class after the end of the swearing in, the service members offered students the chance to ask questions about the various branches of the military. Dozens took them up on that offer.
U.S. Army Recruiter JinSil Thomas, who is based in Bangor, was one of a few members of the military on hand for the ceremony.
“Presque Isle High School is one out of three high schools in the state of Maine to do this,” Thomas said. “So we would obviously like to support them … and share the excitement together.”
Bartlett said work like this reflected his school’s desire to help students advance after they leave high school. And for him, college is far from the only option.
The other two Maine high schools that participated were Bonny Eagle High School in Standish and Portland High School.
“Sometimes college isn’t necessarily the opportunity they want to take, or sometimes not one they are able to take, financially perhaps,” Bartlett said. “The military has one of the biggest scholarship programs available.”