Graduates May 25

The well-worn cliché about villages and child-raising takes on real meaning in the case of Javarri Beachum and Port St. Joe.

Born into a "humble beginnings" Beachum first came to the attention of Eugene Raffield at the age of 8.

Beachum was on the peewee baseball team that Raffield coached and it did not take long for Raffield, and in turn his wife, Margie, to take a shine to the small, undersized youngster.

“He just a special little guy,” Raffield said this week. “He needed help and a lot of people in this community helped him along the way.”

That way will arrive at Annapolis, Maryland next weekend and Beachum’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy, commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, sworn in by President Donald Trump.

“This is not only the accomplishment of a young man who has overcome adversity and has preservered,” said Commander (Ret.) Marty Jarosz, who led the Port St. Joe High School NJROTC program while Beachum was in high school.

“This is also an accomplishment of the city of Port St. Joe that identified and nurtured the qualities in this young man to succeed. I put this accomplishment right up there with being drafted into the National Football League or Major League Baseball.”

Next month, Beachum is due to be assigned to Pensacola Air Base to begin training to become a fighter pilot. He could spend the next two years in Florida or be transferred to Corpus Christi, TX.

“I won’t know exactly what airframe I will fly for quite some time but my desire is to be a fighter or attack pilot, flying either the F-18 or F-35,” Beachum said. “I think I’ll be happy with whatever billion dollar aircraft they trust me to fly, though.”

Raffield said there were plenty of hands providing the chain for Beachum to cling to while making his climb.

After coaching him in baseball, the Raffields effectively took a special interest in Beachum.

Raffield calls Beachum and his sons Sawyer and Spencer, “my boys.”

But, Raffield said, he and his wife were hardly alone.

“That is what is wonderful about a small town, a lot of people helped that young man out,” Raffield said. “I hear people all the time thanking me or Margie for what we have done for him, but it was not just us.

“A lot of people in this small close-knit community touched his life, to allow him to see the other side. And he took it.”

In particular, Raffield said, Jarosz was instrumental in turning a self-acknowledged average student onto the path that would lead to Annapolis.

“That man pounded into Javarri’s stubborn head that he had to work harder to get what he wanted,” Raffield said. “That man gave Javarri so much.

“He, as much as anybody, was responsible for getting Javarri where he is.”

Beachum has also, as Raffield put it, more than lived up to the responsibility that arrives with all those extended hands.

A responsibility to not waste opportunities, to work for achievement instead of having it handed over, to strive and never be complacent.

Beachum excelled in school, was a varsity athlete and president of his high school class.

“I do feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because I know that there is a small percentage of people that get the opportunities that I’ve had in my life already,” Beachum said.

“This sense of pride is fueled by those who support me back home because I couldn’t have done it without many people who demonstrated a genuine concern and care for my life and well being, not my success.”

Above it all, Beachum said, there was the “attitude and aspiration” to better his station, and the lessons forged in Port St. Joe.

“The foundation of who I am was created and molded in Port St. Joe and that’s good and bad; I’ll focus on the good,” Beachum said. “Port St. Joe taught me … there’s nothing more important that building a relationship with the Lord and building relationships with those around you.

“If it were not for this, everything I have strived for in life would be pointless because these relationships give value to what I do in my life, not the other way around.”

Next weekend, Beachum will take a step that many in the community believed was ahead of him, believed enough to invest in a young man in need of direction and stability.

“He’s a bright, intelligent young man who will do great things,” Raffield said. “The community will be very proud of Javarri Beachum.”