SULLIVAN COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - Outside the Elks Lodge in Sullivan, Indiana, flags outside number the steps to a new chapter.
"I'm excited for it and I can't wait for the experiences to come," said Logan McKinney, high school graduate.
McKinney is officially a high school graduate, but behind the scenes, he's been preparing to become a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
"I've lost 60 pounds since after football season," he said, "and I'm continuing to lose weight."
McKinney's journey is just a glimpse of the commitment recognized by his community.
On Wednesday, McKinney, along with nine other graduates, were honored for their accomplishments as well as their future. That's because all of them are headed to start a life in the military.
"We decided, a group of parents, we just decided to get together and throw this for these boys that have never had anything for this," said Cindy Julian, organizer, "There's just really not a lot out there for these boys that are serving our country, and we just really wanted to get that changed."
Julian said the idea came about when they realized a lot of celebrations are held for students heading off to college, but not for those headed to the military.
"We just want to bring back the fanfare," Julian said, "It used to be a really big thing for the kids that went into the military, it used to be pretty exciting. You just don't hear anything about it anymore."
This is the first year for the military send-off. Julian said they included all three high schools for the celebration. While it's only the first go at the event, they're looking to host it every year for graduates headed to the military.
Julian also reached out to local veterans for guidance on organizing the send-off, like Kevin Arnett.
The send-off for brings back a lot of feelings for Arnett, who also joined the military after high school.
"I remember when I was joining, I was scared and nervous," he said, "but I was excited."
Serving in both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Arnett said he sensed the same excitement in the new faces that he had when he was their age.
"These kids are stepping into the unknown," Arnett said, "They don't know what's on the other side of that door and that's boot camp and active duty, and it's going to change their lives. They just don't know it yet."
For the graduates honored, the send-off serves as the beginning of a new chapter. For McKinney, he's still taking in the jump from student to serviceman.
"There's really no words," he said, "It came fast, but I'm ready for it."
Wednesday's graduates honored include:
JC Wallace (Army)
Tristan Bolinger (Marines)
Bailey Levingston (Army)
Conner Houser (Army)
Zac Brodie (Army)
Nathan Montgomery (Army)
Tucker Phegley (Army)
Logan McKinney (Coast Guard)
Tanner Hancock (Air Force)
Kaleb Cole (Marines)
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