As he noted last Friday, Lt. Commander Marty Jarosz (Ret.) had no one to congratulate him 44 years ago when he received an appointment to the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I.
The Vietnam War had created divisions in the country, Jarosz said of the time he received his appointment. Men and women of uniform were disparaged, insulted, called “baby killers.”
His entrance to the upper echelons of Navy instruction was hardly celebratory, Jarosz said.
And Jarosz was determined that would not happen to Javarri Beachum, the current cadet lieutenant for the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School NJORTC program.
Beachum was officially welcomed into the Naval ranks last week as he accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy Prep School, a stepping stone to the Naval Academy in Annapolis in four years.
“We are here to celebrate not only the accomplishments of one man, but also a school,” Jarosz said. “I am extremely proud of what Javarri has accomplished, not only as a cadet, but as a student and a part of the Port St. Joe community.”
Beachum’s milestone, the equivalent of a four-year college scholarship, puts him in elite company.
As Lt. Ryan Lally, a Panama City-based Navy representative for Port St. Joe, said, nearly 18,000 candidates applied for a spot at the Naval Academy Prep School for next year.
Just 250 were selected.
“It’s a very elite accomplishment,” Lally said. “Javarri is an example of a well-rounded individual dedicated to a life of service.”
That Beachum made the cut is itself a tale.
Beachum arrived at Port St. Joe High School at a time when the NJROTC program’s life-expectancy was in doubt.
The program had faced district budget cuts and was on notice that it had to increase its numbers or face elimination.
At the time, there were 23 cadets, less than the 10 percent of student population threshold for the program.
Four years later, the ranks number more than 50 and Beachum in the fourth cadet in the past six years – three in the past four years – to graduate from the program with a four-year college scholarship.
He is the first to earn an appointment to the Naval Academy Prep School.
“This program, in this size of community, has meant opportunity,” Beachum said after signing his paperwork and cutting a celebratory cake to share with family and friends. “There is no doubt, without this program, I would not be here.”
Lally described the opportunity presented to Beachum, including four years of rigorous study at the Prep School leading to candidacy for the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 2018.
He will emerge from the Naval Academy a Second Lieutenant.
Last week, Lally completed the signing ceremony by providing Beachum with an incentive – his ensign or lieutenant bars.
“I can’t be more happy right now,” Beachum said. “This is truly a big step in my life.”
Jarosz spoke about the growth he has seen from Beachum over four years.
A quiet, reserved freshmen, Beachum blossomed into a leader of the school’s cadets, a standout student and an athlete of note on the school’s soccer team.
“He’s a phenomenal student and an exemplary leader,” said school Principal Jeremy Knapp.
And to underscore Lally’s comments about “a village raising a Navy college candidate” as Beachum signed his Prep School paperwork he was surrounded by “family” that included not only blood relatives, but civic leaders and friends who had provided support and a hand up along the way.
“I have learned so much it’s hard to pick out one or two things,” Beachum said of his high school years. “I guess the big lesson is you’ve got to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“It takes dedication and hard work, like anything else in life. But it pays off. I am so happy right now.”