Dan Zang, RHS Principal
One of the many exciting things I get to do each year is to organize the high school graduation ceremony. The ceremony is the culmination of our students’ journey through their K-12 learning experience. I always enjoy the excitement just before the ceremony begins. There is so much energy in the back staging room of the Delta Plex (where all RHS graduation ceremonies are held). Students are so very excited to formally end their high school experience and launch themselves into new exciting journeys.
In April of this school year, I was afforded a unique and wonderful experience. I was invited to attend the Educators Workshop hosted by the United States Marine Corps in San Diego, California. I attended with many educators representing mid and western Michigan, as well as a group from the Chicago area. We were given a first class experience as well as a comprehensive direct access to the Marine Corps operation. There were many highlights during the trip; witnessing young men unloading from a bus and standing on the famous yellow footprints, being able to watch and participate in some of the training exercises, firing an M-16 on the rifle range, and being on the runway at Miramar as jets and other aircraft were taking off.
The list could go on and on but I want to share the two most emotional things I witnessed.
I was one of only six people (out of about 100 plus educators) that were selected to witness the Crucible. The Crucible is the final test in recruit training and represents the culmination of skills and knowledge a Marine should possess. This is a rigorous 54 hour training event in which the recruits are tested physically, mentally, and must incorporate a great sense of teamwork. The recruits also experience sleep and meal deprivation during this exercise as well. On the final day of the Crucible, recruits begin their final march of the experience and assemble at a gathering place at sunrise. What takes place next is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever experienced. The young men cease to become recruits, and are for the first time in their 12 week basic training program, referred to as Marines. This Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony was one of the most powerful and patriotic events I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.
The last event we witnessed before returning to our home destinations was the USMC graduation ceremony. The ceremony itself is an absolute wonderful display of patriotism and precision. Words cannot express how proud I was to be a citizen in this great country of ours. Many of us were moved to tears as the young men celebrated this wonderful accomplishment with family and loved ones. The reunion of family and the great sense of achievement of these young men permeated the facility on a sunny San Diego morning. Following the graduation ceremony the Marines enjoy a 10 day leave before heading off to the next phase of their military commitment.
I will never forget this experience as this gives me a greater appreciation of the sacrifice of all our military personnel and their families. I am so proud of every one of our graduates each year as they move on to make a difference in this world. For some of our graduates their next phase in life is military service. For them, and for those that are serving, or have served, THANK YOU for your service to our country!
Let us all remember those that have fallen in the name of service and freedom!