The mother of a U.S. Marine recruit clutched to her heart a box carrying a special American flag Tuesday at a ceremony to honor local high school seniors who have chosen to enlist in the military service.

Throughout the second annual Greater Fairfield Board of Realtors' program saluting local high school 2013 graduates entering military service held at the Fairfield Senior Center, Leticia Restrepo tenderly held the flag that her son Julio Galindo Jr., 18, was given by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

Galindo, a Fairfield Warde High School senior was one of six students honored at the event, four of whom were in attendance. All were presented with a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., each having been unfurled on the same day sometime in the last two weeks, according to Himes, who thanked the students for their "initiative, patriotism and love of country."

Himes said their willingness to enlist in the nation's armed services demonstrates a level of maturity and leadership. "I stand in awe. I know your parents do too, and I don't mean to make your parents nervous but you're saying, `I will stand in harm's way for the United States of America.' There is nothing simple, there is nothing safe about that declaration," Himes said, adding that he hopes that for the duration of their military careers that the U.S. will be at peace.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau gave each of the military recruits a proclamation from the town thanking them for their service. He also shared with the recruits, their families and the rest of the audience, which numbered almost 50 people, that he spent a memorable Memorial Day weekend with his family including brother Bill Tetreau, who is on a two-week leave from his deployment in Afghanistan.

Bill Tetreau, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, came home to celebrate his son's graduation, his father's 92nd birthday and his parent's 64th wedding anniversary.

At the reception that followed Tuesday's ceremony, the students had a chance to talk with a handful of military veterans.

Robert Korchman, 81, of Fairfield, who served in the Marines during the Korean War, rising to the rank of sergeant, gave advice about boot camp to Galindo.

"You don't see that every day, kids volunteering. It's the best thing they can do. It teaches them respect, courage and responsibility," Korchman said.

"We're here to show our support," said Chris Lussen of Fairfield, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

"We don't have a draft anymore. These kids are standing up. They're not being chased in (to the service)," said Richard DeAngelis of Fairfield, a volunteer at the senior center and military veteran. He was also a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. "Kids going into the Marine Corps are not looking for an easy life," he said.

Joe Rahtelli, of Newtown, said he and his wife Donna were always patriotic and are sure they instilled that in their son Matthew J. Rahtelli, 18, "but we never envisioned that he would choose a military career."

"He's been wanting to do this since he was in the seventh grade. We thought it would be a passing phase," Donna Rahtelli said. Both parents said they are "extremely proud, beyond words" of their son, a senior at Fairfield College Preparatory School who joined the U.S. Army Reserve officers training corps program. He will study chemical engineering at Manhattan College.

Rahtelli's Fairfield Prep classmate, Christopher Bayer, 17, of Redding, said he is proudly following in the footsteps of his father, Stephen Bayer, a first lieutenant in the Army.

"I'm very proud of my son. He's had a wonderful experience at (Fairfield) Prep, he's graduating summa cum laude, and he made the decision to serve our country. It gives me every reason it the world to be proud," Stephen Bayer said.

Christopher Bayer will study engineering at the University of Virginia, while also enrolling in the Army ROTC program.

Galindo said there is no greater honor than serving in the Marines.

Fairfield Ludlowe High School senior Jayson Amoroso, 18, of Fairfield, who will report to a Marine boot camp in October, said he joined because of his love for the military and his nation, as well as for the great benefits. Amoroso said he was grateful to the Board of Realtors for honoring the students who have chosen to enter military service.

Missing from Tuesday's ceremony were Shayna Watford, who will join the U.S. Army, and James Classy, who has already left for U.S. Marine Corps boot camp. Watford will graduate from Fairfield Ludlowe High School next month. Classy, who was represented at the event by his mother Candace Classy, graduated from Fairfield Ludlowe in January.

Adrienne Bernstein was chairwoman of the realty group's event even though she recently moved to Florida to show the community's appreciation to young service members and offer well wishes for great success in the students' chosen military careers. Reached later by telephone in Florida, Bernstein said, "It's such a good program."