JWV Member Creates National Organization Honoring High School Enlistees

In 2009, while serving on his local school board, JWV Post 126 member Dr. Kenneth Hartman noticed his school district in Cherry Hill, New Jersey did not honor graduating high school seniors who planned to enlist in the military after graduation.

As both a soldier and son of a holocaust survivor, Hartman decided to take action. He founded Our Community Salutes (OCS).

For the past 14 years since Hartman founded OCS, the organization has held hundreds of recognition ceremonies across the country for high school enlistees. Tens of thousands of people have attended or spoken at OCS ceremonies; truly a testimony to the appreciation for the young men and women entering the military, as well as their families.

The organizing body of OCS includes community leaders, educators, business leaders, veterans, and patriotic Americans who feel strongly about honoring these young enlistees, the importance of community support and recognition for the courageous and patriotic young adults who will serve in the U.S. Armed Services after graduation, and the 1% of young Americans who take a solemn oath to protect our liberties and freedoms.

When COVID restrictions forced the cancellation of nearly all OCS Ceremonies in 2020, Hartman conceived of and obtained funding to produce and broadcast America Salutes 2020, a star-studded broadcast to honor our nation’s high school enlistees.

The broadcast in 2021 reached over 20 million people in more than 160 different countries. This year, in addition to live ceremonies, America Salutes 2022 will premiere on May 19 with actor Gary Sinise joining as one of the celebrity hosts.

“Our mission and activities have never been more timely or important. Our nation faces a true national security threat due to a dangerously low troop strength,” said OCS Board Member Julie Strauss Levin. “There is an alarming increase of suicides among veterans, as well. We must do much better to honor these young men and women who are willing to serve our country. They and their families deserve our support and respect, and OCS is the only entity spearheading this crucial action.”

OCS is the only national organization bringing communities together to honor and support the 150,000 high school seniors planning to enlist in the military following graduation each year.

OCS ceremonies also provide much needed transitional resources to new enlistees – 75% of whom will only serve for 48 months. Now more than ever, military-bound high school seniors and their families need to know that the country stands with them in their selfless decision to serve our great nation. To learn more about how to support OCS and sign a virtual thank you card for the class of 2022, log onto www.OCSUSA.org.

Volume 76. Number 1. 2022