MARBLE FALLS — As Marble Falls High School senior James Garrison walked up to the school doors Dec. 16, he was thinking he’d rather be somewhere else. Though it was the last day of class before Christmas break, Garrison had no exams that day and didn’t need to be there.
But he was told someone needed a photograph of him regarding his Eagle Scout project, so there Garrison was, walking through the MFHS hallway not knowing who and what was actually waiting for him.
And that it would lead to probably one of the all-time, best acceptance speeches ever.
However, other things were on his mind as he stepped into a conference room, but the moment he did and saw U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-District 25), Garrison knew this wasn’t about an Eagle Scout project photograph.
“I was thinking I was here for my Eagle Scout project, but when I saw Congressman Williams, I was like … I … My mind was thinking a thousand things at that moment,” said Garrison, still searching for words to describe his elation of all the people gathered there for him and what Williams had for him.
Williams made the trip to the high school to surprise Garrison with a congressional recommendation for the U.S. Air Force Academy. The recommendation doesn’t guarantee Garrison an appointment to the prestigious academy, but it’s a major step in that direction.
Along with Williams, Garrison’s parents, one set of grandparents, friends, teachers, and others gathered to honor the senior. And they managed to pull off the surprise.
Williams applauded Garrison. The congressman mentioned something former President Calvin Coolidge said about serving the nation.
“(Coolidge said), ‘When you’re helping your country, you’re helping yourself.’ How true is that?” Williams asked.
The congressman described Garrison as a patriot for wanting to serve the country in the military.
And, Williams pointed out, it wasn’t easy earning a recommendation, but Garrison showed throughout the interview process that he belonged at the academy. Garrison won’t learn until sometime in the spring semester if he will get an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Garrison had previously enlisted in the U.S. Army. He said he chose the Air Force and Army for one main reason: to fly.
The Army, he explained, offered him a way to fly without necessarily going through college or a service academy.
“I enlisted in the Army as a Blackhawk crew chief,” he said. “That was my solid backup plan.”
The dream of flying in the military took root about six years ago in the sixth grade. Garrison was helping former Marble Falls High School student Austin Sellers work on his Eagle Scout project. Sellers had earned an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on the younger Scout.
Garrison also has family ties with the military. His grandfather Sam Garrison joined the U.S. Marines one month before the Korean War. He served 12 years in the Marines before getting out but then turned around and joined the U.S. Army. He spent another 8½ years in the Army, including serving in the Vietnam War, before retiring in 1971.
“I think it’s great,” Sam Garrison said about his grandson getting the congressional nomination.
The student’s parents, Jesse and Debbie Garrison, also shared their pride.
“I’m so happy for him,” Jesse Garrison said. “His hard work has really paid off. He would spread himself so thin with everything he’s in, I didn’t know how he could do it. But he did.”
Along with being a Marble Falls High School student in strong academic standing, James Garrison played football, was a member of the band, and is active in the Boy Scouts, along with a number of other things. His hard work picked up admirers from outside his immediate family and friends as well.
Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Chris Allen recounted to the people gathered for the ceremony how he noticed Garrison’s work ethic in the class and on the field. Allen even pointed this out about Garrison during a game to one of his own children, telling the youth, “if you do everything right, maybe you can be like him.”
“I think (James Garrison) represents everything we look for in the best and brightest in MFISD,” Allen said.
Williams joked with Garrison about not losing the recommendation letter. Then, the congressman gave him the floor, something the high school senior was, admittedly, not prepared for. But he summed up the moment and the ruse that got him to school on his day off succinctly and appropriately,
“I was kind of angry by not being able to sleep in, but now, I’m not,” Garrison said with a big grin.