They stand at attention waiting to become soldiers in the old house chamber in the Alabama capitol. One of them is Kenneth Walker of Montgomery. He is just minutes away from becoming private first class Kenneth Walker, a 19-year old looking for a challenge.
"I want to better my life and have discipline in my life," said Walker.
On this 9-11 anniversary, Governor Bob Riley gave a sober reminder just what it is Walker and his comrades have signed up for.
"You stand here as the nation's war guardians," Riley said.
12 minutes into the ceremony, the time came to take the oath. Walker is not only a certified Alabama Army National Guard soldier but a little richer, too. He received a $3,000 bonus plus $4,500 a year to help with college tuition and on top of that $500.00 a month through the GI bill yet Walker insists all this cash isn't sugarcoating the potential danger he faces should he go to war.
"I'm a little afraid of dying but it's the only job worth dying for," Walker said.
Elizabeth Williams got a $20,000 bonus to sign up.
"I gave up a lot to do this. I'm an aunt, a wife and I will give up a lot of personal freedoms," Williams said.
Col. Glenn Cottles concedes some have questioned the wisdom of dangling this kind of money to potential recruits.
"The fact is we're at war. The kids know what's expected and you can't pay somebody enough money to join a bad organization," said Cottles.
Money or not soldiers like Williams and Walker say they did the right thing at the right time despite taking their first steps into the great unknown. Those who enlist are committed for at least 8 years.
The Alabama Army National Guard had a goal of recruiting 1,950 this year. The guard is closing in on that figure with 1,900 so far.
Guard officials say the recruits will spend one weekend a month training unless they're deployed.