By JHAZMINE LASSITER, ANIYAH SOLOMON and BROOKLYN VAUGHN
When he attended Goldsboro High School, he wore letters in football and wrestling. When he came back home earlier this month, he brought two stars with him. Retired Maj. Gen. Al Aycock showed up at GHS Jan. 12 to speak with our JROTC students about his life and to pass along some advice.
But Aycock wasn’t the only distinguished visitor in the house. Two Medal of Honor recipients, Specialist Five James McCloughan and Col. Joe Marm, shared their stories, too.
Marm, a Wayne County resident, earned the military’s highest honor Nov. 14, 1965, during a firefight along Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley, in which he nearly died while single-handedly destroying an enemy machine-gun position and dozens of enemy fighters. McCloughan’s medal was earned in the same war several years later when, after being wounded multiple times and treating his own injuries, he refused evacuation during a battle near Tam Ky.
Aycock said he was honored to share the stage with two American heroes and was very proud to come back to the city he loves so dearly to speak to some of the young men and women who could one day join the service. And he talked about overcoming adversity — how while growing up, he had a stutter that he wouldn’t let get in his way because of all of the things he wanted to accomplish.
His speech impediment wasn’t the only challenge he faced. He also grew up living with his grandmother who only had an eighth-grade education. But she helped motivate her grandson and is one of the reasons he prevailed against all odds.
After he spoke, students from the JROTC had a chance to ask him — and Marm and McCloughan — about their time in the military and the challenges that they faced while on duty.
One student asked what Aycock’s goal was when he joined the military.
“To survive!” he replied, before giving the cadets some advice on the subject of goals.
Aycock told the students that they should never stop setting goals — that they should always work hard and never give up on anything they want to accomplish. And he, Marm, and McCloughan were honest with the students about their failures. Each said they have failed before because they are human. But they also explained to the students that you can’t dwell on your setbacks or you will never get anywhere.
Aycock ended the hour-long visit with an ancestral quote.
“In the military we have an acronym: L.D.R.S.H.I.P. It’s Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal courage. The most important one of those is respect to me,” he said. “It’s respect because respect makes everything else work. You can’t be loyal to something you don’t respect. You won’t perform your duty for something you don’t respect, and you can’t provide your selfless service for something you don’t respect. If we all respected each other more this would be a greater country and a greater place. But mostly for leaders in the ROTC unit, when you respect the people around you they respect you back.”