The eighth grade assignment asked Dan Malcom Jr. about his future.
That was 12 years ago. Tuesday, Thomson Middle School teacher Julie Gerlach -- who made that assignment to her 1992-1993 QUEST class -- pulled Dan's answers from an undelivered envelope.
Photo courtesy The Miller County Liberal
And there it was: "Become a Marine" in shaky, cursive handwriting.
"He was always just a good student, and always interested in airplanes," said Mrs. Gerlach. "I think military was on his mind from early on."
And it was the military and his country that First Lt. Malcom gave his life for last week. On his second tour of duty in Iraq, the 25-year-old soldier was killed as his platoon of Marines battled insurgents in and around Fallujah.
"He was such a fine person. I've known Dan since he was a baby," said Thomson resident Joe McCommons. "He was a very smart, very quiet person."
First Lt. Malcom was born in Augusta, on April 5, 1979, and lived in Thomson with his mother, Cherry Malcom and his sister, Dana Malcom Killebrew until 1993.
"Dan never knew his father, but he always knew what type of person (he) was and that he was a fine man and that he served in the military and the Marines," said Mr. McCommons, a family friend.
First Lt. Malcom was the nephew of Joan and the late Jack Malcom, Mary Malcom Reese and the late Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Lawanna Malcom) Johnson from Thomson. His fiance was Jessica Montaigne.
"He and my husband were close before he moved away, before he went to the Citadel," said First Lt. Malcom's Aunt, Joan Malcom. "It's just a really sad thing with him being so young."
Word of the soldier's death filtered through Thomson over the weekend.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete late Tuesday, but a burial ceremony -- according to his wishes -- is scheduled for Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Nov. 23.
First Lt. Malcom was the Star Student when he graduated from Miller County High School in 1997. He played basketball, baseball, was in the MCHS band; he was in the Beta Club all four years, in the Spanish Club, Chess Club and was vice-president of his junior class and president of his senior class. He received the UGA Certificate of Merit, Presbyterian College Fellowship Award, Who's Who Among American High School Students, science award, social science award, English award, Spanish award, Academic Excellence, member of the quiz bowl all four years, on the math team and the Marine Corps NROTC scholarship award.
After high school graduation, he attended the Citadel and was awarded his Second Lieutenant rank in the USMC when he graduated in 2001. He was a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, A Company.