74 students enlisting to serve country get recognized after Pico Rivera teacher's anti-military rant

Thursday, May 31, 2018
74 students joining military get recognized after teacher's rant
A group of young people was celebrated in Pico Rivera on Wednesday for their commitment to serving their country.

PICO RIVERA, Calif. (KABC) -- Seventy-four high school seniors were celebrated in Pico Rivera on Wednesday for their commitment to serving their country.

For the group of students, who will soon graduate and join the military, it was a very special evening. Organizers of the event said it's often because they don't get the recognition they deserve.

It's weeks before graduation, but the group of high school seniors is already starting a professional journey. They're all enlisting in the military for different reasons.

"I decided to join because I wanted to further my educational goals as well as give myself and my family a better life," said Pomona High School student Melanny Cornejo.

The end goal is all the same -- to make their family proud.

For Joseph Palombi, of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, it's his grandpa.

"I never got to meet him, actually, but he's always inspired me to serve my country and serve my greater purpose," he said.

But what brought them together on this night is a reason not as positive. Former El Rancho High School teacher and current city councilman Gregory Salcido made some comments about the armed forces that went viral.

MORE: Pico Rivera councilman, teacher recorded making anti-military rant in classroom

Gregory Salcido, a government teacher at El Rancho High School, referred to military members as the "freaking lowest of our low" in a classroom rant recorded by a student.

His critical remarks to a student who is enlisting after graduation caught the attention of organization Our Community Salutes. It's what brought them to honor these students.

"When you turn that negative into a positive, that's the lasting impression," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones.

Salcido was fired from the school district but still serves as a councilman in Pico Rivera. Another councilman, Brent Tercero, said it's important to make sure these students know they're valued.

"I think this event helps demonstrate that our community supports the individuals who look to join the military," Tercero said.

And after they join, community leaders hope they'll return home once they've accomplished their service to their country.