Annual dinner to honor graduates entering military

The Venango County unit of Our Community Salutes, a national nonprofit organization that assists communities in honoring their graduating sons and daughters who are entering military service, has set Friday, May 24, for its annual recognition dinner.

“We’re not yet sure how many young people and others will attend because we don’t yet have all the information. I’m sure we will have a lot,” said Sherman “Tank” Morrison, a 21-year Navy veteran from Franklin who launched the initiative with his wife, Tracy, in 2013.

His goal of thanking military recruits and showing the community’s pride in the new graduates has resulted in accolades to more than 400 local young men and women entering the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and National Guard over the years.

Last year, about 90 graduates were honored by the Our Community Salutes program.

The soon-to-be active military members are drawn from 19 area school districts, a number that has grown significantly when Morrison first approached only school districts in Venango County. The chapter, now known as Our Community Salutes of Northwest Pennsylvania, is one of 63 in the U.S.

The dinner will be held at the Atlantic Avenue United Brethren Church social hall at 160 Atlantic Ave., Franklin. The social hour will begin at 5 p.m.

The guest speaker is Master Chief Petty Officer Robert C. Tinsley, U.S. Navy retired, from Leeper.

Reservations, due by the end of this week, may be done online at

“The kids and their guests have to register that way,” said Morrison. “That is different this year, but it’s good because it can put them into other related organizations that provide information about careers, family support, networking and more to the new recruits.”

Additional information is available by calling Morrison at (814) 428-9102.

Open to all recruits

The dinner is open to all students completing their secondary schooling – whether it be a high school, cyberschool or home school – and bound for military service.

Each recruit will be presented a red, white and blue honor cord to wear in graduation ceremonies. In addition, those attending the banquet will receive a collection of items, ranging from a challenge coin to a T-shirt, writing materials and more.

“All of them will get the honor cord, even if they don’t attend the dinner, if we can hook up with them before the graduation ceremonies,” said Morrison.

The local Our Community Salutes project is sponsored by more than 30 organizations that include veterans groups, civic clubs, funeral homes, businesses, attorneys and individuals.

“They are all 100 percent on board with this program,” said Morrison. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to do this. It is with their generosity that it is all possible.”

‘A privilege and honor’

When Morrison came up with the salute to recruits in 2013, he said he was motivated by the combat deaths of some local men over a short period of time.

“Our community needs to know these young people before they go into the service. We should not learn about them only when their names are etched on stone and they are forgotten in the wind,” said the retired Navy man.”

After spending years to keep it going, Morrison has no intention of letting the salute to military men and women falter.

“No, none of us are getting tired of doing this,” he said. “We love doing it. It is a privilege and honor to recognize these kids going into the service.”