Victor Boyd wrote a blank check a little more than nine years ago to the United States and specifically to the U.S. Navy to defend his country.
What that means for Boyd and other veterans who wrote that same metaphorical check is they were willing to give up their lives to protect the freedoms granted by the United States Constitution they swore to preserve.
“All the veterans are here to protect you. You’re our future,” he said to the audience in the Kilgore Middle School gym. “You will be the next generation of men and women who join the armed forces and hopefully you will do the same. It takes a lot of courage to step up, put that uniform on and say that you want to be the one to defend the rights and the freedoms that we have in the United States today, a lot of courage. A lot of people do so and don’t make it home; they’ve given their life for this flag, and they did so willingly.”
When someone takes the oath to join the military and to become an Airman, a Seaman, a Marine, a Soldier or a Sailor, he said, it just becomes part of the person.
When Boyd graduated from Kilgore High School in 1983, he did not know what he wanted to do, but he knew he was not going to college.
His stepfather was in construction work, but his biological dad had been in the Navy.
“One of the things that I knew that I wanted to do was serve in some capacity, whether it was going to be a police officer, a fireman or something. I just wanted to serve,” he said. “One of the first pictures that I remember of myself as a baby is having a Navy uniform on, little chubby kid about six months old in this little sailor suit.”
When it came time to decide his future, Boyd chose the career that would allow him to see the world. During his nine-and-a-half years in the U.S. Navy, Boyd visited locations around the world that include Germany, England, Denmark, Sweden, Barbados, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
“I couldn’t pay for all the places that the Navy has taken me to,” he said.
The most important thing for students to remember, though, is what the military requires of its members: to be in a specific place at a certain time, on time and to do what is asked of them by their superiors.
“It’s not very hard. Be where you’re supposed to be, be there on time and do what it is you’re supposed to be told to do,” he said. “What I realize was this was the Navy teaching me to build my foundation for life. Those three steps will build your foundation for anything you do in life.”
Those habits begin at home and at school, he said.
Whether it is arriving for class at a certain time, being home before curfew, doing chores around the house or doing what coaches and teachers say in school, he said, students are already building that foundation.
“Your foundation builds your character, who you are… Those three things will get you where you need to be in life,” Boyd said.
“Every member here who’s been in the military had to raise their right hand and repeat after a commissioned officer who gave them their oath… Every single veteran, every single person that’s on active duty, every person who has given their life for this country, who has put on a uniform had to take that oath.”
Boyd left Kilgore as clay, thinking his foundation was set, but found it strengthened through the Navy. He did not expect to be back in Kilgore except to visit, but his path led him back to his hometown where in 2016 he became the first African-American to serve on the Kilgore City Council.
“There’s no other place I’d rather be than out here in the community serving you as a city councilman, as a parent, as a father, whatever it is you need, that’s what I’m here for,” he concluded.