The idea was spawned by Dr. Kenneth Hartman, who while working for Cherry Hill Schools wondered what was done to honor military-bound high school seniors.

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After researching, Hartman realized that no school district honored these young men and women, so he decided to do something about.

He said the students were "no different than the kid going off to college who has all sorts of banquets and ceremonies and bumper stickers."

In 2009, he launched Our Community Salutes, holding the first ceremony in Voorhees for about 50 students in Camden County that were headed to the service. The event featured each recruit receiving a Certificate of Recognition from the State Senate with friends and family gathered to watch.

"This is the true one percent," he explains, "These are the kids who have said to their classmates, 'You go to college and I'll be up in the watchtower for the next three or four years, while you enjoy yourself."

The idea has spread like wildfire across the country. The all-volunteer foundation has hosted events in 22 states in just 4 years of existence. Nearly 5,000 students have been honored in 2012 alone, while even more are on board to hold events in 2013.

Funding for the ceremonies has come from donations and local businesses, who also donate professional talents, such as photography, etc.

A career and college fair is held, usually, where purchased tables go towards the cause, as well. Hartman cites cooperation and support from all branches of the armed forces as a key component to getting his idea off the ground. One rule, though, is that no government money is accepted to organize an event.

"It is not the government's job to thank these kids, it is the community's," he said.

Hartman says that the Our Community Salutes has also offered an outlet for an overlooked part of the equation...the parents. The events give parents of fellow military-bound students an opportunity to meet and network, since they are in the same boat of worrying about their children.

"We simply want to treat the military-bound high school graduate the same way that schools and communities recognize the college-bound graduate," Hartman says.

More information about Our Community Salutes and how you can help is available on their website and Facebook page.

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