B y Donna Frischknecht

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question that can be greeted with an eye roll or an indecisive shrug from a teen still not sure about the next step after high school graduation.
For teens interested in serving one’s country, though, the question becomes not “what should I be?” but “what branch of the military is the right one for me?”
Realizing there was a group of students in her care wrestling with that question, Kristen Carey, counselor at Whitehall High School, listened attentively and supported the request from two 10th graders who came to her wanting to start a group in which to talk about the options available.
The Military Club began in 2015, with more students signing up for the club this year, Carey said. Meetings are held monthly where students explore the pros and cons, joys and challenges of serving in the Army, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard. Carey often invites guest speakers from their respective branches to talk to the students.
“I hope to get them all the information they need to make an informed decision once they are old enough to sign up,” she said.
At their December meeting, members of the Military Club had a special treat when Sean Hart, Drew Martindale and Mathew Austin, all Whitehall alumni, came to talk to the teens about their experiences in the Navy.
One of the challenges Hart mentioned was the homesickness he experienced for the first month but he said it goes away and “then you really start to enjoy what you are doing.” Hart works as an equipment officer in the Navy’s construction division, something he never saw himself doing before.
“He really glowed with pride talking about his division, the Seabees,” Carey said.
When asked about military food and how it rated to perhaps a pizza from Putorti’s, Hart said the food was pretty good, “better than one might expect.”
The alumni speakers also mentioned how important their experience as juniors attending American Legion Boys State was to helping them develop leadership skills and confidence to succeed.  Whitehall student James Rozell and a few other boys are planning to apply to represent Whitehall at the American Legion Boys State this summer, Carey said. This year the American Legion Girls State will be sending Jessica Bruce to represent Whitehall.
“It was great for our students to hear the ‘real story,’ the good, the bad and the ugly about military life,” Carey said.
The result of hearing from “one of their own” was that the teens were even more excited about serving their country in the future, Carey said.
In addition to the monthly information sessions, the Military Club creates a “Military Bulletin Board” in May in observance of Memorial Day. The board, Carey said, lists all the Whitehall alumni and staff (that she is aware of) who have served in the military.
Carey realizes there are alumni who have served that are missing from the display and is asking for people to contact her with names.
“Even better is if people can send me a photo of them in uniform,” Carey said. “We add those to the bulletin board, too, and it makes a real impact on the current students.”
Information can be mailed to Kristen Carey, P.O. Box 29, Whitehall, NY 12887 or emailed at [email protected] Please include person’s name and branch served/serving in.

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