After graduation: The choices of three graduates
On June 14, close to 200 students will graduate from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. The Class of 2009 is made up of individuals who have expressed their singular styles, talents, personalities, and ambitions. While more than 70 percent will be continuing their formal education, others will be making choices based on who they are and what their priorities are. All are interesting and all are worthy.
Slight and muscular, Ryan Cray is blessed with the kind of agility that suggests he could roll out of bed and easily run a marathon on any given morning. At 17 years old, Ryan might be one of the younger students in the class of 2009, and he is the only graduate enlisted in the Army. "I'm going to start training for boot camp pretty soon," he says. "I leave for basic training August 10."
In a clear and measured voice, Ryan says, "The most important thing for me is getting college taken care of. That's pretty much the number one reason I joined. I'm not really made of money." So he joined using the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) and a two-year deferred mobilization: which obliges the Army to keep him in the same unit, and not move that unit for two years. This gives Ryan time to pick up extra credits at a community college, and then enroll in a four-year Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. He calculates that he won't deploy overseas for between five and six years.
But money for college is not the only reason Ryan joined the Army, although he admits that, "if you had asked me if I would join the Army in December, I probably would have said 'no.'" In December 2008, Ryan traveled to Ft. Hood, Texas where his father, Army Specialist Jason Cray, was stationed. It was Christmas break, and Specialist Cray was scheduled to leave on a year-long deployment to Baghdad on January 14. Spending time on the base with his father, Ryan was moved by the feeling of camaraderie and saw an opportunity for himself. "It was an awesome environment," he says. "The whole Army family thing. And the benefits are out of this world. I started talking to my recruiter when I got back home, and pretty much within a month I was in Boston signing up."
It's not just the benefits or the job security that motivates Ryan. He is proud of his father's contribution to the country and wants to do the same. Looking ahead he said, "I will be the first person to raise my hand and say I'll go over as long as my education is taken care of."
The similarities between he and his father are striking: Ryan will do his basic training in Fort Lennonwood in Missouri, where his father trained; Ryan's high school graduation falls on his father's birthday; and a special bonus: Jason Cray will be on a short leave from active duty in Baghdad in order to appear at Ryan's commencement on June 14.