OAKWOOD -- Spc. Channing Moss told West Hall High students Friday that, despite his age difference and his new-found status as a war veteran, he is not much different from them.
"You think that you're 15, 18 now, that me being 22 that my mind frame would be a lot older than yours, but it's not," Moss said.
"I don't consider myself a veteran, because I'm still growing," Moss said. "I'm still learning."
Moss spoke at West Hall High as part of the school's Veterans Day Commemoration. The school dedicated its new Spartan Weight Training Facility to him. Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs proclaimed the day as Channing Moss Day in the city at the ceremony.
Moss also spoke earlier in a ceremony at West Hall Middle School, where he urged students to do their best in school, work hard and they too can become successful in life. Moss helped the school, home of the Patriots, to dedicate "Patriot Park," a landscaped area at the school meant to honor veterans and others doing service in the community.
The ceremony featured many other speakers, including a West Hall Middle teacher, Marine Corps Sgt. Eric Radich; Superintendent Will Schofield; and U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville.
"I survived the battlefield," Moss said at the middle school. "You can survive middle school, trust me. Days get hard, but you can survive (it). ... You can do anything you want to do."
"It's great to be home. I almost didn't make it," he said.
The former Army private was seriously injured in southeastern Afghanistan on March 16, 2006, when he was traveling in a group of five Humvees along the Pakistani border. As a gunner, Moss was positioned atop a Humvee when Afghan insurgents attacked the caravan.
A rocket-propelled grenade entered the humvee through the windshield and pierced Moss' body but failed to detonate.
Following five surgeries and intensive physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Moss recently moved to Fort Gordon near Augusta with his wife, Lorena, and two young daughters.
At one point Friday at the middle school, his 3-year-old daughter, Yuliana, approached him while he was speaking. "This is the real reason I joined the military right here," Moss said. "... She needed everything I had to provide for her, and I knew the military would be my stepping stone."
He repeated that point during his speech at West Hall High. Moss said the main difference between himself and the school's current students is that he reached a point in his life when he had to make a decision about his future.
"One day, I needed to make a key decision in my life to become an adult," Moss said. "Not a young adult anymore, but an adult."
As a West Hall student, he said he skipped science classes, wandered off during assemblies and did not study math. As a result, Moss did not walk at his graduation in 2001, he told students. "I messed up," Moss said.
But Moss said that did not keep him from succeeding in life. "I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be a part of hip hop, but I got it together," Moss said. "You can make mistake, but it's the key decisions in life that (affect) your outcome."
As Moss was being honored for his bravery in Afghanistan, he told the students not to be like him, but to be better than him. "Get your heads together," Moss said "You're going to be in my shoes, your parents shoes one day, so listen to them."
His final advice to the students: "Y'all have fun tonight, beat Gainesville."