Pvt. 2 Jeffery Goodwin, one of the Leak Street 13 who graduated this June, graduated from basic training Nov. 19 at Fort Benning, Ga.
He arrived home Dec. 20 from Fort Rucker, Ala. where he’s doing his Advanced Individual Training (AIT). He’ll return to Alabama the first week of January and will graduate from AIT Feb. 19.
After that he’ll be assigned to his permanent duty station in an aviation unit and likely be deployed a few weeks or months later.
Goodwin said he’s looking forward to being deployed, because it’s what he signed up for, but he’s glad he can be home for Christmas.
“It means more to me now knowing I might not be here next year,” Goodwin said.
“I hadn’t even thought about that,” said his mother Martha Williams of Hamlet. “He wasn’t home for Thanksgiving and it didn’t feel right. It was weird. Something was missing. It was bittersweet because I’m proud of him, but your child leaving is bittersweet. Even our dog Tarheel Joe is sad.”
Goodwin has decided to make the Army his career and will likely face many deployments in the coming years.
His MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) is Aviation Operation Specialist, door gunner. This means he’ll be the soldier shooting from the door of a Black Hawk helicopter when he’s out on assignment.
Goodwin said he joined the Army because he wanted to serve his country, but he also wanted to get out of Richmond County, see the world and make a life for himself.
His enlistment in the Army was also part of a pact he made with his two cousins, Diquez Scott and Abdul Bowman, when they were in the ninth grade, and now all three are in the Army. Scott is currently deployed to Iraq and Bowman is in Afghanistan.
“My son had struggles just like every other teenager but he had good role models and when my younger son got sick, it drove Jeffery into action and he straightened up and started flying right and he just persevered,” Williams said. “I think he was scared and realized life is too short.”
Williams’ younger son Joquan, now 12, was diagnosed with stage-four cancer 17 months ago. He’s in remission now but Williams said it was a tough time for the whole family.
Goodwin has another younger brother, Curtis Franklin Jr., 11. He is the son of Williams and her husband Joseph of Hamlet, and Curtis and Tantanisha Franklin of Rockingham.
Goodwin said when he arrived at Fort Benning for basic training, the first day was an eye opening experience.
“What did I get myself into,” he said about that rude awakening.
But once the first day was over with, Goodwin said he really enjoyed basic training.
He said the best thing, so far, about being in the military was the appreciation he’s received from complete strangers.
Goodwin has had people salute him at airports and buy him drinks at the store.
“People are grateful,” Williams said. “They may not believe in the cause we’re over there, but they’re thankful we’re signing up.”
“We’re proud of him,” she continued. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he graduated.”
Goodwin said he’d encourage other teenagers to join the military after high school because of the amazing benefits, free education and chance to see the world.
“We’re so proud and it was important for his story to be told because at one point he was two grades behind but he made five out of six AB honor rolls and persevered,” Williams said. “I think he kind of realized what a good feeling it is to help people when he saw that when his brother was sick so many people were willing to help us. I think it helped him make that final decision. It makes me proud he wants to serve.”
Staff writer Eren Tataragasi can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 19 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.