Seniors prepare for service with military commitments

Posted 4/22/21

Jackson-Colegrove is one of nine graduating seniors from Alba-Golden, Mineola and Quitman high schools who already are, or soon will be, in uniform. 

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Seniors prepare for service with military commitments


“It was the straightest five-strand barbed wire fence you could imagine,” shared Alba-Golden senior Ryan Jackson-Colegrove. The senior had just helped build the fence under the direction of Alba-Golden teacher and former active-duty Marine, David Curry.

Jackson-Colegrove was describing the influences which led him to sign up for duty in the service of the United States Marine Corps. The nature of being a Marine – all things in order, organized for maximum effectiveness – was being passed from a former active-duty Marine to a prospective Marine.

Jackson-Colegrove is one of nine graduating seniors from Alba-Golden, Mineola and Quitman high schools who already are, or soon will be, in uniform. 

While most folks will be enjoying the area lakes this summer, Jackson-Colegrove will be at Recruit Training Depot San Diego undergoing the ritual which is Boot Camp. “I ship out June 21,” he stated, “bound for Camp Pendleton.”

“It’s what I’ve wanted since as long as I can remember,” he admitted. A stand-out athlete on the gridiron, Jackson-Colegrove craved the discipline resident in Coach Drew Webster’s football program.

Marine Corps recruiters have been overseeing Jackson-Colegrove’s preparations for Boot Camp. There are physical workouts twice a week and a periodic physical conditioning test. “I’m down from 230 pounds to my ship-out weight of 206,” he said. 

Jackson-Colegrove has no concerns about embarking on this adventure.

“My parents (Amber and Justin Colgrove) are a little nervous,” he remarked, “but the recruiters are good at ensuring I am good to go in all respects.”

There is no follow-on specialty training yet for the prospective Marine. True to the Marine tradition that every Marine is a rifleman, he will first have to earn the title with an infantry unit.

Just up Hwy. 182 in Quitman, another senior will walk to receive his diploma next month. Stephen Ortiz, however, will do so as a member of the Texas Army National Guard. 

Ortiz already has almost two years’ affiliation with the 3rd Battalion, 144th infantry Regiment. He signed his enlistment papers and took his oath in the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Quitman High.

For his parents, Ruben and Veronica Ortiz, that day was a shock. “I didn’t tell them beforehand,” Ortiz explained. “I asked them to come listen to the recruiter…only after we arrived did it become apparent that it was the day I was going to sign the papers.”

Their reaction was simply, “Are you sure, son?” As he was 17 at the time, his parents’ signatures of consent were required before enlistment. 

Ortiz confessed that the ride home from Tyler was pretty quiet, but that by evening everything was back to normal. 

With some time already served and Boot Camp at Fort Benning behind him, Ortiz describes his decision to serve as the best decision he has ever made. “It kept me on the right path,” he offered.

This summer he will be back at Fort Benning undergoing Advanced Infantry Training. He admitted that the training at Benning had changed his whole outlook. “Life is something to protect and fight for,” he stated.

And his parents? “They are just proud of me,” he said with a smile.  

The Texas Army National Guard offers, for some, the best of both worlds – the ability to deploy with well-honed skills and the time to pursue a civilian life. When not deployed, the training is conducted on one weekend a month and in a two-week stint each year.

Since the end of the Cold War, the contributions of the National Guard on the battlefield have become a common phenomenon. The combat power of the guard has been proven, and there does not appear to be any change at hand. As has been recently seen, deployment of the guard for humanitarian assistance on the Gulf Coast in hurricane season remains frequent.

Joining Ortiz at the 144th will be Mineola senior Danny Lockhead.

Lockhead said he has “always had an adventurous spirit and a desire to make a difference in this life” that prompted his decision.

Having signed his enlistment last fall, Lockhead will depart this summer for a full 22 weeks of Army training at Fort Benning.

“I will be doing Boot Camp, followed immediately by Advanced Infantry Training,” he said. That training regime should finish just before Christmas. 

Lockhead credited coach Bill Self and assistant principal Jeff Tittle for influencing him toward service. “There were a lot of good people who helped shape that decision,” Lockhead said. He thanked his parents, Robin Means and Wes Lockhead, for continuing to offer support for what is best for him. 

The new enlistee recalled that standing up to recite the service oath was a proud moment for him. That oath is affirmed by all service members at every commissioning, enlistment, promotion and reenlistment. 

For active-duty personnel it states: “I (state your name) do solemnly swear to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me in accordance with regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”     

For Texas Army National Guard service members, the oath is altered slightly to include “and the State of Texas” following “the constitution of the United States” and adds “and the Governor of the State of Texas” following the “President of the United States.”  

For young men such as Jackson-Colegrove, Ortiz and Lockhead, the full meaning of that oath and the sacrifices it may require are yet ahead.  

The young graduates who will be standing the watch for the country are as follows:

Levi Bowden, Mineola, Air Force
Ryan Jackson-Colegrove, Alba-Golden, Marine Corps
Chelon Juarez, Mineola, Army
Dylan Lee, Alba-Golden, Army
Danny Lockhead, Mineola, Texas Army National Guard
Stephen Ortiz, Quitman, Texas Army National Guard
Cutter Owens, Mineola, Marine Corps
Michael Spurgeon, Mineola, Space Force
Hunter Wright, Mineola, Marine Corps

Fair winds and following seas.