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“I like that the Marines are here,” Maria Allen said with a wink, before adding proudly that her daughter would be attending Northern Virginia Community College.

Wheelchairs were interspersed among dining chairs at each table. The Marines in their dress uniforms laughed and talked with family members and smiled for photos with students who looked at them in awe. Earlier in the day, the Marines presented their swordsfor the ball attendees to walk under.

The Marines received the second-loudest applause and standing ovation behind Brie-Anna Davis, a recent high school graduate who won the Kyle Maynard No Excuses Award.

Brie-Anna plans to attend George Mason University, despite teachers telling her mother years ago that she would go no further than a sheltered workshop because of her developmental disabilities.

“They’re ‘abled’ students,” Mr. McCormick said, “not disabled.”