With Hilltop High School senior James “Jay” Garrett’s nomination to potentially attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a path was opened by which the young and dedicated hopeful might continue a legacy of service at the highest level.
“My dad was a graduate of West Point, class of 1994,” said Garrett of his late father.
He was an Army captain in charge of vehicle maintenance and readiness for the Silver Lions of 2-68 Armor while serving in both Germany and Bosnia, the latter as part of a peacekeeping force.
And he’s also the man from whom James takes his name.
While Garrett, a six-sport athlete and top-level student, has his own level of personal motivation for striving for the academy, some of his very earliest inklings that the military might be his path came from his father’s memory.
“When I was little, my mom has home videos of when she would go to visit him at West Point. It was cool watching those,” said Garrett. “She would film their marches when they had visitations. I always thought that was cool.”
Garrett also has some of his dad’s rank insignias.
“I guess I’ve always kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps,” he said. “It’s my dad, what kid doesn’t want to do that?”
Garrett and his family — his father and mother Abigail, both northwest Ohio natives, and older sister Lauren — moved to Archbold and then West Unity from postings in the south when he was very young. His father passed away after a battle with what is believed to have been sarcoma in 2005.
Garrett attended school in Pioneer before transferring to Hilltop for high school. His mother eventually remarried after meeting Garrett’s stepfather, Homer Hendricks.
In Garrett’s sophomore year, he said his dreams of becoming a pro baseball player began to be replaced by a more serious desire to pursue a military future.
And so, he set about his work, making the school’s honor roll all four years and becoming president of National Honor Society while maintaining a dedication to golf, football, cross country, basketball, track and baseball, during which time he earned his coaches’ praise as a leader.
“I’m very competitive,” said Garrett. “I’ve always wanted to be the best about anything I can be in. West Point is very prestigious and honorable. It’d be amazing to be a part of it.”
The proof of his desire can be seen not only in his athletic and leadership displays, but also in his academic work.
“Throughout school I’ve worked really hard with grades,” he said. “Even seeing a ‘B’ it really bothers me on a paper. I work hard; I take college classes and try to take the highest level courses I can to prepare for that.”
If officially selected to attend the academy, Garrett says he plans to pursue a major in civil engineering, a change from his initial desire to pursue construction management.
“I thought that (potential career) was really interesting, just being outside and building. It’s very much needed in today’s society with how the world is growing,” Garrett said, noting that he’d like to start a family and a construction business to support them upon one day returning to civilian life. “That’s what I was looking to originally, but then through more research, I saw civil engineering is a little more broad and I would have a bigger range of options.”
At this juncture of the selection process, Garrett knows nothing is set in stone. Still, he’s excited about the possibilities that might await him down the road of life.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling, a great feeling to be nominated and possibly being able to go,” he said. “But there is a lot of applying and work that needs to be done. It’s all worth it in the long run.”
Bryan High School senior Tyler Manon was also nominated for the academy.