Clover High honors new military recruits

cmuccigrosso@lakewyliepilot.comMay 21, 2014 

— Clover High School recognized 12 graduating students on Monday by holding its first Military Signing Day.

Like student athletes who are celebrated for their achievement and progression to college on signing day, Clover High School held a ceremony in the media center for students who will serve in the military or attend a military academy.

“We want to thank these young men and women for dedicating their lives our country,” said school counselor Larisha Young.

Four students chose the military school route, while eight enlisted in U.S. military branches. Three of the students have received Congressional appointments to the prestigious U.S. military academies.

“I can’t think of finer young people to become leaders in our services,” said Air Force JROTC Maj. Brian Batson during the ceremony. “It’s a big deal and a huge investment in our future.”

Marine and Army representatives welcomed the new recruits and presented them with journals provided by Comporium in a room filled with parents and friends.

“This is really nice, but there’s going to be times you’re going to want to drop out,” said Shipmen 2nd Class Andrew Conn, a rising junior at the U.S. Naval Academy and 2012 graduate of Clover High. “But keep your mind on your goal. Focus on school and developing as a leader.”

Brady Watson, who will attend U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School, admitted feeling a little intimidated but unwavering in his pursuits.

Watson said his great-grandfather was a Navy pilot in World War II, and since the eighth grade, has been working to follow his footsteps. Watson admitted the 1980s movie “Top Gun,” may have had “a little influence,” too.

“It’s rare someone so young knows what they want to do and never changes course,” said his mother, Stacy Watson. “I’m so proud.”

Hayden Matkovich, who will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has always eyed the military life, too. He has family members who have served in the National Guard and Navy.

He was also accepted to Tulane University, but when Matkovich received the call from West Point about his acceptance, he didn’t look back.

“At first I didn’t believe it, it was so so awesome and a dream,” he said.

Matkovich thanked many teachers for being great role models, and like others choosing military careers, he credits the Air Force JROTC program with giving him a leg up.

“You don’t have to do ROTC, but I think it gave me a competitive edge,” he said.

Senior John Slavens will attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

Slavens had nominations at both the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy, but he decided the Navy would be a better fit for his major and future plans.

Slavens plans to study systems engineering.

Harrison Brooks, who will go to The Citadel in Charleston, also said he is realizing his dream.

“It’s always been my dream to go to military school and graduate as an officer, and be a leader,” he said. Brooks received an Army ROTC Scholarship.

“The big thing that really pushed me, besides friends there, is you can go in whatever branch you want,” he said about graduating from The Citadel. “It’s gonna be hard, but I’m ready for it.”

Brooks said after serving active duty for 20 years, “I can retire at age 40.” Then he can become an ROTC leader in school, like Batson, or join the police department.

Others are enlisted. Audrey Guy will leave July 15 for the Navy.

“It’s really scary,” Guy said about joining a predominantly male career. “It’s a lot to handle, and you have to step up to the plate and show what you can do.”

With the help of her uncles, she decided “Navy has a lot more to offer.”

Lucas Dunnavant said he’s been in the ROTC four years and wearing the military uniform gives him a sense of pride. “I felt different, complete,” he said.

Dunnavant, who is the first in his family to choose the military, said he is also the first to graduate from high school.

“I decided to go big, or go home,” he said.

Dunnavant enlisted for eight years with the Marines and will leave in November for boot camp at Parris Island.

Other students choosing military life and honored Monday include: U.S. Navy, Justin Blake; U.S. Marine Reserves, Llovani Rojas; and National Guard, Ivan Hills, George Ramsey, Trent Poling and Ryan Racz.

Catherine Muccigrosso •  803-831-8166

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