Small Town Send Off for Teen Headed to Air Force

Small Town Send Off for Teen Headed to Air Force

(Drew Saunders, Jan. 16, 2020)

Holly, MI – Cecelia Velazquez’s eyes watered with pride as her alma matter high school’s band played the Air Force’s anthem in their sendoff ceremony Monday afternoon. Velazquez boarded a plane Tuesday bound for Texas, to begin boot camp training in the 18-year-old’s new career in the United States Air Force.

Velazquez said that she had been told there would be some sort of official send off, but “I didn’t expect anything like what it turned out to be. It’s nice. It’s just kind of out of my comfort zone, it was kind of a lot.”

January 13’s ceremony began in conception last August, when a Navy veteran James Golden entered a local Subway, where Velazquez worked. According to James’s wife Ina, who is also a Navy vet, he asked Velazquez what she was going to do now that she had graduated high school.  The teen quietly replied that she was going to join the Air Force.

The Golden’s are members of the Holly Area Veteran’s Resource Center Project, a local non-profit that creates a local community for current service members and veterans.

James heard Velazquez was joining the Air Force, he said, “You just made my day!”

With that spark of inspiration, The Goldens and the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center began organizing Monday’s Hometown Support going away ceremony. Velazquez was the first to be honored in this program.

They arranged a parade of local police cars, fire trucks, and an ambulance that escorted Velazquez and her family to Holly High School.

What she wasn’t expecting was to be greeted in a large room at the back of the building by the entire school band, and choir. They performed a number of songs, including the Star Spangled Banner and Air Force anthem.  In between songs, members of the school and veteran’s community shared stories singing the woman’s praises and wishing her good luck.

Velazquez will be going through about two months of basic training in San Antonio, followed by a month of training in her planned specialty in Mississippi – Airfield Management.  That work ensures that conditions on airbases are safe for aircraft to take off and land.

“I’m a very easy going person, but there’s not much I want to do in the civilian world that I would really want to do for the rest of my life, whereas I can see myself in the Air Force for a really long time,” Velazquez said.

The Resource Center has already tied 35 yellow ribbons around a big maple tree on Maple Street, with a name on each to represent community members who are currently serving in the military. Velazquez will be the thirty-sixth, and the first woman.

Learn more about the Holly Area Veteran’s Resource Center on Facebook.

Check out this recent video of a bald eagle swimming, then soaring, at Great Lakes National Cemetery.

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