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NEWS | Feb. 26, 2020

Citizens join military during San Antonio Rodeo joint enlistment ceremony

By Tish Williamson U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

More than 150 citizens from the San Antonio and surrounding areas took the oath of enlistment during the first-ever Joint services ceremony hosted at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Feb. 22.

Army Maj. Gen. Dennis P. LeMaster, commander, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, administered the oath of enlistment to a total of 153 recruits joining the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force.

Each year, members of the rodeo’s Military Appreciation Committee organize an enlistment ceremony as part of the event’s Military Appreciation Day. This was the first time, however, a mass enlistment was conducted and turned out to be one of their largest enlistments to date according to retired Navy Capt. Gail Hathaway, coordinator of the event.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo President Rusty Collier, as well as former mayor and current Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, made opening remarks before LeMaster addressed the crowd of enlistees, their family members and other patriots.

During the event, MEDCoE Command Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Valeria Van Dress provided the invocation, the San Antonio U.S. Marine Recruiting Battalion provided the color guard, and the San Diego Marine Corps Band provided accompaniment during and after the formal ceremony.

LeMaster thanked Nirenberg, Nelson, Collier and the rodeo for their continued support of the military as “Military City USA.” He also praised the group for making the monumental choice to join the military.

LeMaster, who is also the 19th Chief of the Medical Service Corps who joined the Army more than 33 years ago said, “You chose to serve something bigger than yourselves; that makes you part of only one percent of American’s who have and I, and your Nation, are forever grateful.”

The general also described the dedication and perseverance they have already shown to make it to enlistment since over 30 percent of those who try to join the military fail to meet required standards.

“I am proud to welcome you into military service,” LeMaster told the formation just before administering their oath. “The military has the tendency to turn ordinary Americans just like you, into the extraordinary.”

He acknowledged that some of them may have been feeling a little under prepared for the commitment they were entering into but told them to trust that the military will train them for whatever will come next starting with a set of core military values that are time honored and true: duty, integrity, ethics, honor, courage and loyalty.

“Be open to the changes the military will have on your mind, body, and soul,” LeMaster said. “Trust those core values, they will never steer you wrong.”

LeMaster ended the ceremony by encouraging the new enlistees to not only look inside themselves to find the untapped strength they will need to face adversity, but to their peers who have taken the same oath of enlistment.

“There is strength in numbers and from this day forward you are part of the biggest family you will ever know and love: your brothers and sisters in Arms,” LeMaster concluded.