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What editorial begins by asking the reader to stop reading right now and turn to the back page of the paper? Well, this one does and for good reason.

The names of the young men and women shown on the back page are our Aiken County high school seniors who have volunteered to serve in the armed forces. Volunteerism isn’t a topic discussed much these days but it’s inspiring to know that our seniors are joining the less than 1% of graduating seniors annually who will wear the uniform. The small elite group who raise their right hand and solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic – even if the enemy is a virus!

Let’s put aside our concerns about the COVID-19 virus and the rules and guidelines for just a few minutes and reflect on this wonderful event happening right here in Aiken County. We’re about to send some of our best and brightest on a journey that will have a profound effect on their lives. They will enter the military as newly graduated high school students and transition to self-assured individuals with qualities like teamwork, decision-making, leadership, sacrifice and selflessness. Their parents are rightly proud – our communities should be equally proud. Perhaps the best part of the story is most of these young people will return to Aiken County and be outstanding citizens. Now that’s something big – something to celebrate.

Go ahead – turn to the back page with a renewed sense of appreciation for these 17- and 18-year-old men and women. Their parents did a great job instilling patriotism in their children, the citizens of Aiken County did a great job supporting them and it’s with confidence that I say these young men and women will do a great job serving our country.

Tom Matthews and Pat Blewett are members of Our Community Salutes – Aiken County.