Growing up in a Military Family

Can you tell me why you decided to choose William and Mary?

So William and Mary for me was always my dream school since I was four years old. I decided I wanted to be here after I came here on a trip with my parents. I found out about the rich history behind the College and you know at the time, being in kindergarten learning about the founding fathers and Thomas Jefferson. I was like, “man it would be really cool to be a lawyer like those guys and go to college that is really close to home.”

Do you still have that dream of being a lawyer since you are in the ROTC and Army?

I kinda abandoned my lawyer dreams around high school. Ultimately, I would want to be a politician. But, this law school is something that I definitely have not checked off my list. I do plan on still serving after college since I am contracted with the Army. But, you know if the opportunity ever arose, I would not write it off.

I mean when you got your acceptance letter from William and Mary, do you remember anything from that day?

So I was actually working on a group project for my school news team, and we had just finished filming. Then, we went to McDonalds, and I was having a pretty bad day since stuff with some girls were going down. I was pretty down. I got a text from one of my friends saying, “hey did you get your mail?” I was like “no why?” He didn’t get into William and Mary, and I was like yikes since I thought that this kid in my school was sure to get in. But yeah, I was like, “yikes. Decisions came out.” so we kinda ate real quick, and went home with my god brother. And we opened my letter, and I got in. I remember I screamed, and I went to my parents’ room and told them. They were so happy. My dad was kinda like, “congratulations. You did what you were supposed to do” type of deal.

Kinda the philosophy there was, “getting in is the easy part. Finishing is the hard part.”

Do you live your life with that philosophy? Kinda live your life by the hard way and not the easy way?

I would say once you get there in retrospect, there are different things you could have done, but ultimately, getting somewhere isn’t the hard part. It is finishing. You have to finish the fight. And that is where I think a lot of people screw up in life. It is like the dog chasing the truck. The dog will chase and chase and chase, and once he gets to the truck, he has no idea. So you have to finish it.

Is that why you are going into ROTC because you kinda want to finish?

So I joined the Army more so because I’ve wanted to find a way that I could serve best. I have a very strong patriotic and civil duty. For someone with my skill set and my talents, I feel like I could best serve from a military position. Especially growing up military, I have had my whole life exposed to it. My dad is still active duty so.

 

Does he go up to Washington a lot?

So he was actually recently stationed at the Pentagon. He works with CASCOM (Combined Arms Support Command). And, he writes doctrine for the military now.

Besides your dad, is any of your other family serving in the military?

Three of my cousins. My dad’s cousin. I have a very large extended family and I do not know all of them. But from the ones I understand, I have three cousins in the military. One in the Navy, two in the Army. And then, my dad’s cousin who is also in the Army.

I’m guessing this is a kinda biased question, but Army or Navy?

Army. Go Army Beat Navy.

I don’t know. Like my mom’s side of the family have all gone to VMI. But, I guess I never really been around the military. Does having a military family change your values?

Absolutely. It definitely changes how I view things. How I look at things. It changed my perspective especially with world views and politics. It has some sort of factor into that. I think that one thing that growing up military which most military families can attest to is the discipline and self-initiative and how important that is. Now like being a part of the system- realizing how ingrained they [these values] are within you with everything that you do. How it really can help benefit just not the military career but life.

I’m guessing if you could change one part of the ROTC here, what would you change?

ROTC?

Yeah the ROTC Program here at William and Mary.

More exposure really.

Get out into the real world?

Not even the “real world.” Just campus. I feel like we have a very small presence on campus. Partly because of people’s political views and partly because of the size of our program. But i really feel like you know cadets on campus really tend to do well in their community and have a lot of the best interests of not only the William and Mary community but Americans at large. And, I feel like we have a lot to offer and would like to see the campus not write us off so fast.

Why do you think the campus writes y’all off?

I don’t know. I think a lot of it is misconceptions in the military. I think a lot of times when people see guys in uniform standing up at tables, you think, “oh recruiter recruiter stay away stay away.” And a lot of times, that has nothing to do with recruiting. It is just getting our faces out there where you get to see us and we see you.

I guess the problem with this campus is that there is a misconstrued idea about the military being very conservative.

Of course, here at William and Mary not all of us, and I know tons of people who do not identity as a conservative and I know tons of people who do not identify as a liberal. And we are a very mixed program. And I think the military is the perfect place of people who see differently politically but can put their differences aside to accomplish a mission and achieve some sort of end state. I feel a lot of people especially on campus aren’t necessarily able to do because when you have discourse, it turns into yelling fights and angry people walking away with no sort of knowledge or insight gained into the other side. I think if we look at programs like the military, it is the perfect example of guys who have very different views, but are still able to use those views to find common ground and work together.

I think you mentioned this before, but where do you want to go after the military or after you serve?

I actually want to practice politics. Like that is my ultimate what I want to do. Ultimately, what I do in the military is kinda going to shape what opportunities will open for myself. But hopefully, I am trying to get into logistics for the military so hopefully that will open up some type of management jobs and maybe I can get into some lobbying for companies and stuff. And kinda, put my foot into the door so.

Are you a Boy Scout because I know a lot of people in the military are Scouts?

I was not a Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout for a year. And then, I stopped because I wasn’t able to make all the meetings and stuff. Growing up, I was a big baseball, football, and soccer player. I did all three. Then usually during the winter, I would even throw in basketball some years. But yeah Cub Scouts never really worked so I never really joined back in.

Kinda phased out?

Yeah definitely phasing out sports. So by the time I reached high school, I was playing soccer and football. Then by it was time to play varsity, I was only playing football.

You grew up already in a military household so you didn’t really have to learn the ideals of being a Boy Scout because I feel like being a Boy Scout, you have to learn these things.

You know I feel like Boy Scouts teaches young men honor, duty, valor- all that stuff. And like for me, that came through sports. Those are the same values through sports and different methods. Boy Scouts is fine like I have nothing against the organization and program. But, it is very political. Sports are something that anyone can pick up a ball and play. And you see it across the planet like with the Olympics. You see people come together and you see friendly competition through it. You might have your boy across town who plays for the rival team. Hate each other on the field, but afterwards you dab em up. So like, sports has always been just a  nonpolitical source. Best players are going to play. No shame in it, let’s just get after it. Let’s get after a goal. And yes, the military is highly political, but on a lower level, that is kinda how it works. It’s you and the team. You guys have a mission. Figure out how to get it done. And make it happen. There is no, “this person said this. And this person said that.” Just get it done. Make it happen.

Did you get recruited for football [here at William and Mary]?

I was recruited my junior and senior year. I was not offered any kind of scholarship though. I was a walk-on- recruited walk-on. So basically, that means if you get into the school, you can play on the football team. So that is kinda how that worked.

Are you a platoon leader for ROTC and a captain on the football team?

I am not a captain on the football team. But, how our ROTC program works is we do leadership rotations. So I have served as platoon leader. Currently, I am the executive officer for our company which is a position that is in charge of planning transportation and planning schedules. I basically the guy in between the seniors and the rest of the company. So whatever the seniors are planning, I am in charge of making it happen and giving direction to the rest of the cadets in the company.

Has that kinda helped you transition from this leadership role in the ROTC to how you are playing on the football field? Kinda how you are helping the younger guys?

I think with ROTC, it is just kinda solidifying leadership. My role on the football team is very different than it is on ROTC. On ROTC, we have a lot more say so because we do have elected captains. On football, it does not mean you cannot be a leader. I’m pretty big on helping out. I’m kinda the guy on the team that helps out whenever I can. Huge on pushing the guys on the right direction and making sure that people are doing right and make sure you are doing what you are supposed to do. Make sure you stay on the team. Taking care of the guys. And that is something you learn in the military too. Take care of your team.

Have you gone out of your way to watch over some of the guys on the football team?

All the time. That has nothing to do with being a football player. It is just being a decent human being. You know if anyone is in trouble, drive over get em out. That’s life though. I do it for anyone. In ROTC, I do it for anyone. If some kids call, “hey we know this guy. He needs help” I’m doing it absolutely.

Kinda drop everything?

Yeah. Just get it done. Somebody needs help, help them or find them help. If I can’t help, I know a guy.

I guess like your personal philosophy of trying to help everyone makes you popular and well-liked across this campus.

Maybe. I have always lived with being nice to everyone. I have no hard feelings for anyone. Try not to carry a chip on my shoulder. Smile to everyone you see. There is no reason to walk around upset or anything. Just always, see the good in people. People are generally good. And even though people have wronged you, just keep moving forward. And I think people recognize that kind of vibe. You can see that kind of aura around you. If you are a positive person, people will gravitate towards you. And, I feel like if you can do that, it will help you in life.

Going back to your family, do you have any siblings?

I do. I have an older sister. She goes to VCU. She is in the nursing school there, and she is graduating next week. I have a younger brother. He’s a senior in high school. He just signed to Saint Andrews in North Carolina to play football. So he will be wide receiver. He signed a full ride scholarship. He is 6’6” 200 pounds. Beast of an athlete.

Not as big as you or bigger?

He is taller. He is not as muscular, but definitely taller. He is going to be a pretty stellar athlete.

How has it been being like the middle child in the family because there are all these misconceptions of the middle child?

Middle Child Syndrome? I think it’s real. Don’t listen to what anyone says. I think middle child syndrome is real. Which is fine, but like you know, the oldest is definitely weird. I had all my siblings very close in age. All two years apart. My sister was definitely the babied one. And she is the oldest. But she was the only girl. She didn’t really cause that many problems. And my brother was the hellraiser. But, because of how close my brother and I were, it was easier for my parents to lump us together, and I would usually take the brunt of the fall for him because as the older one and the more responsible one, it was my fault that he did whatever he did. I was like, “that’s bull” but whatever. You learn to live with it.

Did it kinda help establish your own independence coming into college?

Yeah and high school was really a place where I felt that I didn’t have to go out of my comfort zone to do the things that I did. I had a pretty impressive resume, but I didn’t really have to do anything out of the ordinary to do. I feel like coming to college has pushed me into a new direction. And it has forced me out of that comfort zone a little bit and forced me to do things that I normally wouldn’t have done. And ultimately made me a better person. It’s created a different individual than what my parents saw at home. And i think that really separated me from what they had thought of me. I don’t think they had known me too well.

I guess being in the ROTC, it has brought you and your dad closer together. Common bond?

Yeah my dad wanted me to go to West Point. And I got in[to West Point]. I declined because William and Mary has been my dream school. I really wanted to go here and really wanted to play football here. So that was some tension between my dad and I, but the football thing kinda brought us together in high school. And then the Army thing gives us some common ground. And more so, it is understanding my dad a lot better after being a part of the organization and understanding why some things might be the way they are. It is hard to explain things to the outside, but once you are in the organization, you see why things are the way they are. And see why people act the way they do. So it was more i could understand my dad. We got pretty close over it [the Army] yeah.

Did you dad serve overseas?

My dad has deployed twice to Kuwait, once to Afghanistan, once to Iraq, South Korea, Mogadishu, and he has done a couple of other tours.

Did that affect your childhood?

Yeah I didn’t grow around my dad. I wasn’t around my dad much as a child. Most deployments can be from anywhere a week to a year. His longest was a year in Afghanistan. But yeah, I was raised by my mom for the most part. My dad was always gone which was hard because when my mom got into a car accident and was paralyzed, my dad came home. That was when he left the Pentagon because we didn’t have a caretaker.

We had to have a caretaker since I was still in high school. So my dad had to leave the Pentagon and come to Fort Lee. That was when he started working at CASCOM. So that was weird. It was the first time I was living with my dad for an extended amount of time since I was in sixth grade. So it was a couple years. You know middle school is pretty developmental and beginning of high school even is too. That was some tension there. When my mom passed away, it was just us for a while. It was weird and different dynamic for a while. And my dad is the type of guy who likes to have complete control of a situation. It comes with it [the Army] sometimes if you are not able to recognize that. My dad also has an extreme type A personality.

I think that is a lot of people especially for those on football and ROTC. Especially for you. I can tell you are type A.

*laughing* I try. But, yeah the way my mom ran things so when he came in, he changed things and shifted things around which created tension with all my siblings. But, you know we found our groove. And once she was gone and it was just us, we really came together and made it happen for us.

Do you kinda remember what is was like to live with your mom? Was it kinda weird lacking that paternal presence in the house?

No because even though he wasn’t around as much as we would have liked, my dad made his presence known. He always called home, and we always knew “man of the house was Keith.” We always knew the right thing to do. There was always standards. Never mess up. There was no lack of structure. My mom always made sure that we knew how much our dad loved us and what he was doing for us and the country. So you know, very understanding. And we knew if we messed up, we would still feel the wrath of Keith so there was still that. I remember once in sixth grade, my friend was bullying this once kid and moved this kid’s chair from out from under him. And he blamed me. And this was my friend. They called my dad in Afghanistan. I got chewed out for two hours.

Even though it wasn’t you?

Even though it wasn’t me. To this day, I swear on my life, I did not move that kid’s chair. It was Dustin. Absolutely. He still laughs about it. They called my dad in Afghanistan. And that man cussed me out on the phone for two hours in front of all of those people. I stopped hanging around that crowd for a good while.

Where you hanging around a sketchy crowd in middle school?

I have been hanging around the same dudes since kindergarten. I have had the same six friends since kindergarten. Dustin has always been the troublemaker. He was definitely the prankster.

Did your friend ever know not to mess around with your dad being in the military and everything?

Yeah, but Keith was also a father figure to all of my friends. All of my friends looked to my dad like their second dad. Whenever my house was always the safe house and whenever Keith was home, everybody would come over and always talk to Keith. And even now, everyone has my dad’s number to call Keith if their is a problem: school, home, whatever. First person they go to is my dad.

I know being in Chesterfield, did a lot of your friends not have a father figure in the house so they looked to your dad?

Out of all of them, I would say my whole group had pretty stable families. But you know with that, “family problems.” One of my friends did not have a dad, and he stayed at my house a lot. My dad always took him under his wing. Every family has their problems, but they would always go to my dad because you know my dad’s and my mom’s relationship wasn’t perfect. They looked at my dad as a guy who at least understood what it should look like and ways to handle it. My dad didn’t grow up with a father. My dad was adopted and grew up with a single mom in middle class Texas. He kinda “gets things.”

Are you from Texas?

I am. I was born in Fort Hood.

Fort Hood. Was it by the military base?

So Fort Hood is the military base. Abilene was where I was technically born which is near Fort Hood within a driving distance.

When did you move to Virginia?

I moved to Virginia when I was five. I’ve lived in Virginia. I’ve lived in Texas. I’ve lived in Georgia, Mississippi.

I’m guessing you found stability in Chesterfield compared to a bunch of other military families.

We moved around a lot between the ages of one and five. When we came to Virginia, the war broke out. They don’t move you during deployment. And my dad always deployed so that is kinda why we stayed. My dad’s claim to fame in the military was his success on the battlefield. He was constantly being deployed and constantly doing things that kept him out of the country which is why we never had to move.

Do you expect yourself more out of yourself [because of your dad]?

Of course. I know that I have big boots to fill. I always hold myself to a high standard though.

Do you think your officers will recognize your dad?

A lot of them do. [William and Mary] actually have a new professor of military science coming in who knows my dad. They worked together way back in the day. So I mean it’s a small army. A lot of people know a lot of people.

I’m guessing since your dad has made this big impression on people and you’ve made an impression on this campus, do you expect all of these connections to pay off in the future when you look towards either being a lawyer or a politician?

I try not to look at it like that. I try to look at it people being people. Being a good person. Being kind and generally caring about people. People can pull strings later down the road and let’s build together. That’s kinda how I look at that.

 

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