The William Floyd school district is launching a student recognition program Thursday called "Our Community Salutes" that honors high school graduates who've enlisted in the armed forces.

Twenty seniors from five Brookhaven Town school districts -- William Floyd, Patchogue-Medford, Bellport, Center Moriches and Longwood -- will participate.

The program, to be held Thursday night at Sunset Harbour in East Patchogue, is believed a first for Brookhaven, William Floyd district officials said.

Often at graduation, "you hear about the students going off to the Ivy Leagues," said William Floyd Board of Education president Robert Vecchio. "This is a way for us to recognize the kids who are sacrificing their time and a lot of other things to go and serve our country. I hope they walk away saying, 'My community is proud of what I did.' "

William Floyd High School senior Moses Goetschius, 18, of Shirley, who is joining the Marines, said: "It is quite an honor to be recognized now, before even starting boot camp."

The local effort is part of a national movement. Our Community Salutes, a nonprofit based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, recognizes high school graduates who are entering the military and honors their families.

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It started as one ceremony in southern New Jersey in 2009 and has now spread across the country. Events are planned and carried out by volunteers, including veterans, educators, merchants, community leaders and active-duty military personnel.

Vecchio heard of the national group and thought it would be a great idea to bring it to Long Island. The district then invited other local schools to join.

"It's important to honor and thank our graduating seniors for their service in advance so they know their hometown is proud and appreciative of what they are about to undertake," he said.

The motto of Thursday night's event is "The First To Say Thank You."

Featured speakers include state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville), a veteran and former Islip Town supervisor, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones of the Army Reserve. Area veterans have also been invited.

William Floyd senior Samuel Cognet, 17, of Shirley, who enlisted in the Army, said being recognized by the community is an honor.

"To me, joining the military is doing something bigger for your community, your country and yourself," he said.