MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)- 96 high school students from across the Lowcountry are being honored at Patriots Point on Wednesday for their decision to serve our nation.

Our Community Salutes, a national organization, is behind the recognition for some of the country’s newest servicemembers.

One of them is United States Marine Corps (USMC) enlistee Brooke Wallace from Summerville.

“The pride of belonging, the confidence that you gain and the title of being a Marine means a lot,” said Wallace.

Another is Ernest Chouinard, who comes from a long line of Marines.

“There’s no person more disciplined than a Marine. They are the best of the best that this country has to offer and I want to be one of the best of the best,” said Chouinard.

Support from their parents has been strong.

“Even the recruiters had said that she has that leadership mentality so I hope she can build on that,” said Julie Wallace, Brooke’s mother. “That’s really important. I don’t think they teach a lot to kids in school now.”

“I feel extremely proud that he’s picking up the legacy,” said Pete Chouinard, Ernest’s father. “He’s worked hard to get where he is.”

The sacrifice of the young men and women who answer the calls they hear to serve is important.

Especially, since there has been a decline in willingness to join the armed forces amongst military eligible Americans.

In 2022, NBC News reported that nine percent of military eligible Americans were willing to serve. That is the lowest number since 2007.

Captain Jaclyn Dahl, the Executive Officer of the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Columbia, says her team works hard to get the best people for the job.

“The best Marines from across the Marine Corps are picked to come out here to handle all of the challenges and they do a great job. Marines are big at overcoming adversity,” said Captain Dahl.

Dahl’s recruiting team of 80 Marines covers all of South Carolina and eastern Georgia.

Through the Delayed Entry program, recruiters help prepare enlistees for physical training, knowledge tests and Drill Instructor interaction after they have committed to the Corps.

“It’s a hard transformation and our recruiters have become experts at starting the transformation at the recruiting station,” said Captain Dahl.

Both enlistees will be making Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot their new home this summer. Chouinard, who aspires to play tuba in the USMC, starts basic training on May 30 and Wallace begins on July 31.

“It sounds fun to me so I’m excited to go do that,” said Chouinard. “I think being a musician in the Marines is one of the most extraordinary opportunities I can have because you get to do things that a lot of my buddies going to college won’t get to do.”

“I’m just looking forward to the whole experience,” said Wallace. “I know it’s going to be a challenge, but meeting people and being there with everybody doing the same thing means we’ll all be in it together.”