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NEWS | June 10, 2024

Army Reserve colonel returns to hometown high school as commencement speaker

By Capt. Tara-Lee Gardner 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command

The 2024 graduating class of Escambia County High School received a special honor this year as U.S. Army Reserve Col. Gerry Jackson, a distinguished alumnus, returned to his hometown to deliver an inspiring commencement speech. The ceremony, held on May 16, 2024 on the school’s football field, was a poignant moment for both the students and the community.

Jackson, a native Atmore and a graduate of Escambia County High School, built his career in the military through perseverance and dedication. He shared stories of his journey, starting from his hometown to deputy commander of the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) while the unit was deployed to the Middle East. In his speech, he offered the graduating class both motivation and a sense of pride in their shared heritage. His speech marked a memorable milestone for him and the students, celebrating their achievements and the future that lies ahead.

“Standing here today, I’m reminded of the dreams I had as a young student who traversed the same halls you did,” Jackson said. “It was here that I learned the importance of dedication and the power of community, lessons that have guided me throughout my military career.”

Jackson's career began his career in the Army Reserve in 1993, after commissioning through a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. He currently serves as the lead for the Army North (ARNorth) Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Response Team under the 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC).

In his speech, Jackson recounted his journey from the halls of Escambia County High School, to graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Alabama A&M University and subsequent military service in various capacities around the world, including deployments in Iraq and Jordan. He emphasized the values of perseverance, integrity, and service that guided him through the difficult times and the tough assignments.

His distinguished career is not just a list of assignments; it's a narrative of growth, challenge, and unwavering dedication to service, inspiring the next generation of leaders at Escambia County High School.

Jackson also shared personal stories of overcoming challenges and the bonds he built with his fellow soldiers. Jackson also highlighted the importance of giving back to the community. He urged the graduates to pursue their dreams while remembering the support they received from their families, teachers, and friends.

“As you embark on your next chapter, never forget where you came from,” he advised. “Carry forward the values you’ve learned here, and always strive to make a positive impact on the world around you.”

Jackson shook hands with each graduate as they happily walked across the stage, collecting their diplomas. The commencement ceremony concluded with loud cheering from family and friends in the bleachers. the students tossed their graduating caps skyward and turned inward into a huddle-like hug, ecstatic about their accomplishment.

As the newly graduated seniors prepare to venture into the world, the presence of Col. Jackson serves as a powerful reminder of the potential within each of them. His visit underscored the enduring connection between past and present generations, illustrating the profound influence of education and community support.