Before going to Flowery Branch High School, Braden Parks said he had never considered military service.
This fall, he is headed to Colorado Springs, Colorado, as an appointee to the U.S. Air Force Academy class of 2017.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins recognized Parks and 10 students from the Ninth Congressional District who were appointed to military academies or preparatory schools during a reception Friday in Gainesville. Parks was the only student to receive an appointment to a U.S. Military Academy this year. Collins nominated him and the other students.
“Don’t look back, keep moving forward,” Collins told the students and families gathered at The Atrium at Hunt Tower. Each student received a certificate recognizing the achievement.
Parks’ interest in the Air Force didn’t start until some middle school friends with military aspirations talked him into trying out the Air Force JROTC at Flowery Branch High.
“I think I enjoyed the structure, the rigor of it,” he said. “I liked the structure of the day-to day, you cut your hair a certain way, you shaved a certain way, you wore the uniform. I really enjoyed it.”
Parks moved his way up through the ranks and was commander of his unit, when the program was dissolved after his junior year.
He called his appointment to the Air Force Academy, “the biggest honor I’ve ever been blessed with.”
“It means so much to me, I can’t even put it into words,” Parks said. “Me and my family spent months praying over this and trying to understand what my next move was going to be moving into college. We didn’t know until late March whether I was actually going to be able to go. We were feeling so blessed that I was going to be able to go to this amazing school.”
While he hasn’t decided what he wants to do in the Air Force, Parks said he is interested in flying drones or remotely piloted aircraft.
“I’ve never actually experienced getting to fly one other than the little hand-held ones you can get at Walmart,” he said. “They’ve been fun for me to fly recreationally as a hobby before. I thought it would be interesting to fly a bigger one.”
His father, Brad, said the appointment was “a true blessing for our family.”
“We prayed that God would use him in the right way and lead him where he needs to be,” he said of his son. “He’s opened this door for him and I think it’s just going to be something that he can grow into. He loves to serve, whether it’s his friends, or people in our community. I think this gives him the perfect opportunity.”
His mother, Adrienne, said she was “thrilled” for her son.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” she said. “He has worked really hard to get here. I’m excited for this opportunity for him and I know it’s going to change his life in ways he cannot even imagine.”