Polytech High School 2012 graduates Olivia Combs and Kylie McCarty were among the officers and enlisted men and women gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Delaware National Guard's newly renovated recruitment center in Dover Wednesday morning.
Combs and McCarty recently signed up for the Delaware National Guard, which is part of the U.S. Army, at the newly renovated recruitment center at 63 North Dupont Highway.
A friend of theirs had referred them to Delaware National Guard recruiter Sgt. First Class Michael Cook, he said.
"Once we explained the features and the benefits to them, they liked what we had to offer and they said, I do," Cook said. Those benefits include college tuition, health benefits and 24-hour access to Dover Air Force Base, among others.
Combs and McCarty both said the ability to earn college scholarship money while serving America was too good to pass up.
"What's the most important thing here? Serving our country," Combs said.
The Guard's Dover recruitment center off U.S. Route13 replaced the kiosk it had used in the Dover Mall in October 2011, Lt. Col. Len Gratteri said. Nearly $15,000 in renovations were just completed.
Since the move, Lt. Col. Valentine Miller said the new site provided better visibility, easier access for walk-ins and more interaction with local businesses.
In all, the new, prime location in Dover had produced 45 enlistments this fiscal year, said Major Gen. Frank Vavala, commander of the Delaware National Guard.
The Guard made $14,500 in renovations thanks to contributions from Sherwin Williams Paint, Martel Inc., Home Depot, Lowe's, Comcast, Verizon, ACE Hardware in Dover, the City of Dover, JD Sign in Bridgeville and ARG Communications in Smyrna, Vavala said. In addition, he expressed gratitude to Calypso Catering, which provided lunch for the grand opening.
"It's an example of Delawareans helping Delawareans and that's really what we're all about in the Delaware National Guard," Vavala said. "We're the only [U.S.] military component that has both that federal and state mission.
"We're the nation's most economical and efficient fighting force, living and working in the community with the ability to serve to meet the nation's needs when required," he said. "And, hopefully, this recruiting facility will bring new, quality men and women to serve the great United States, the state of Delaware and the city of Dover. God's blessings on all of you."
Page 2 of 2 - In brief remarks, Dover Mayor Carleton Carey Sr. thanked the Delaware National Guard for the sacrifices it has made for Dover and all of the Diamond State.
"I know you do a lot for everybody," he said. "We appreciate it."
As for Combs and McCarty, both 18, of Felton, they begin basic training for 10 weeks in mid October in at the U.S. Army's Fort Jackson, S.C. and Fort Sill, Okla.