Jacksonville, N.C --
“Andrew Dwayne Morris,” said the speaker as Pvt. Andrew D. Morris walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. Once he crossed the stage, he removed his navy blue cap and gown to reveal his dress blue bravo uniform. The crowd erupted into applause to show support for the Southwest High School graduate who worked tirelessly to graduate early and walk after already earning the title of Marine.
Morris was born in May 1996 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Deanna Brashear and was raised in a single-parent household for most of his life. Brashear describes her son as well-mannered, hard-working and goofy.
“Andrew has a huge sense of humor but he knows when to be serious,” said Brashear. “He has a huge heart and is willing to help anyone.”
From a young age Morris knew he wanted to join the military. He said he came to the realization when he did a project in the second grade called “all about me,” when he was asked what he wanted to do with his life.
Brashear and Morris both contribute his interest in the military from the movies he watched as a kid and the games he played with his brother. Morris said his favorite movies, which inspired his interest in the military, were Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket and Forrest Gump.
“I like Forrest Gump because he keeps going,” said Morris. “Everyone told him that he wasn’t going to do anything and he never gave up.”
Morris used this attitude to achieve his goals later in life when he made the decision to earn the title Marine. Morris’ interest in the Marine Corps came nearly five years ago after his mother married Staff Sgt. Daniel Brashear, the transient line chief for Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
“My stepfather knew I wanted to join the military and he told me about the Marine Corps,” said Morris. “It seemed like they did a lot more than the Army did. I realized they’re the best.”
Morris entered high-school in 2010 along with a new principle, Tim Foster, a native of Jacksonville, N.C.
“In his first year he was sort of lost in the crowd and never in trouble so he was never in my office,” said Foster. “During his sophomore year he started to stick out because he carried himself differently.”
Morris carried himself differently because he had become focused on his goal. He was going to finish high school early, earn the title Marine and then walk with his class, but in dress blues.
Morris says he came to the realization after studying the credits required to graduate. He recognized that if he was economical and made every class count, he could be finished midway through his senior year.
His mother became heavily involved in helping him achieve his goal.
“I took care of everything,” said Brashear. “I would call the school and make appointments with his counselor to make sure he had all his classes set up.”
In his sophomore year Morris met his future recruiter, Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Hossley, then a recruiter with Recruiting Sub Station Jacksonville, N.C., but now the staff noncommisoned officer in charge of Recruiting Sub Station Wilmington, N.C. Morris was too young for Hossley to begin working, but over the next two and a half years, every time Hossley was at the school, Morris would be right there, helping hand out items and find potential Marine Corps applicants.
“I was surprised he stuck with it, I didn’t expect him to last this long” said Hossley, a Vicksburg, Miss. native. “But, the more he came to the table, the more I knew he was serious.”
Morris says that his mother’s support kept him on track, especially when he wanted to get lazy. He didn’t need to get an after school job so he could focus on school and in his junior year she supported his decision to join the cross country team to prepare for boot camp.
Morris battled through painful shin splints during his first year with cross country, leaving him unable to practice and only running in meets. Through his senior year however, Morris qualified for the regionals team and finished fifth within the team.
“That’s what cross country is all about,” said Rich Mason, the Southwest High School head cross country coach and Long Island, N.Y. native. “It’s like life, if you can’t get use to that pain you won’t be successful.”
Morris pushed hard through cross country, and he pushed hard through school. He finished all his requirements and he was able to graduate at the end of his first semester of his senior year.
Morris left for boot camp March 10 as part of Platoon 2041, E Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, in Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Like many recruits, Morris experienced doubt and questioned his decision to join. But through the constant letters of support from his mother, family and friends, and the motivation of his drill instructors, Morris pushed through and graduated June 6.
Morris achieved his goal of walking with his class while he was on his ten day boot leave, but was walking a little different.
“Most people come back from boot camp and they carry themselves differently, he’s always carried himself that way,” said Foster. “There a few things you can’t take away from a person and that’s his high school diploma and the title Marine.”
Morris said he did it because he loves challenges but he also hopes to inspire people.
“Just being a Marine is one of the most honorable things in the world,” said Morris. “To walk across that stage in my dress blues was awesome and hopefully others will see that and think ‘that’s what I want to do.’”
Morris has many challenges left, including Marine Combat Training and his military occupational specialty school, which will test his resolve and character. Morris said that he will take his senior drill instructor’s advice and never stop striving to be the best.