A slightly stunned Grant Williams stood with his family, smiled, and waved as a firetruck and deputy led a parade in his honor.
The drive-by parade Saturday outside Cornelia Elementary School was organized as a sendoff for the Army recruit. Williams is heading to boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, on June 1. That’s the day before his 18th birthday and thirty days before his high school class graduates.
Grant’s mom, Natasha Jones, wore an Army green t-shirt with the words “Proud Army Mom” emblazoned on it. She choked back tears – half happy, half sad – as she talked about Saturday’s celebration and her son’s future.
“He was very surprised,” she said of the 20-vehicle parade and all the friends and loved ones who turned out for it. “I’m so happy for him and I just wish him the best of luck. I know he will do awesome in the Army.”
Family friend Carol Moses organized the sendoff surprise. She, too, had a hard time holding back tears as she spoke of Grant, who she’s known since her kids became friends with him in seventh grade. “When I found out he was going to miss his graduation, his senior prom, and all the other things that the seniors were going to get to do I thought, ‘You know what, let’s give this kid something to remember.'”
“This means a lot,” Grant said. Sirens blared and car horns honked as they passed by him. Several of the vehicles stopped long enough to hand him a card or gift. In a way, Grant’s decision to join the military was a gift to his grandfathers. After all, military service is a family tradition.
“I’m happy. I feel great,” said Travis Norton. “My great-grandfather was in a mule cavalry in World War I and my dad served in Korea and Vietnam, so, it’s a family thing.”
“I’m proud of him,” added Rodney Jones. “I served in the Army myself in the 80s and I’m just glad to see him step up and serve the country.”
The wrestling team from Habersham Central High School was there to honor their teammate. Grant was on the team all four years of high school. Coach Morris Brooks called him “a terrific young man.” Assistant wrestling coach and math teacher, Bradley Johnson, said: “I think he’s a very brave young man and he’s going to do well serving his country.”
Grant is one of six HCHS graduates joining the military this year. When retired teacher Donna Barrett heard about the parade she knew she had to participate.
“I don’t know him at all, but my thing is this: He’s somebody’s son. He is representing our country and, this is just a wonderful way to say thank you to him and the other graduates who are going to serve our country ’cause what more could we ask?”