James Grissom Jr. always wanted to be someone special to himself and others when growing up in Thomson.
Today, the 38-year-old has achieved some of his personal goals -- especially the one about serving others. The majority of those goals have been achieved while serving in the Army Active Reserves, where he was just promoted to the rank of major.
It's taken the 1989 Thomson High School graduate nearly 14 years to achieve his status in the military. It's one he's extremely proud of having accomplished.
"It's truly an honor and a blessing to have been promoted to this rank," said Maj. Grissom, who is based out of Fort Gillem, in Forest Park, Ga. "It definitely opens an avenue that I had been seeking for a while."
Achieving such a rank wasn't an easy task. It came with lots of dedication, commitment and sacrifice on Maj. Grissom's part. Because it wasn't an easy road to get where he has gotten, it makes him more thankful.
Maj. Grissom, who has had a couple of tours in Iraq, said one of his jobs as a captain was being a member of the casualty notification team. The job entails having to find and inform a soldier's next of kin that he or she has been killed in the line of duty.
"That job was one of the most difficult jobs I've ever had to do in my life," said Maj. Grissom. He has performed such a mission at least 15 times.
"Seeing the expression on the faces of those people I've had to notify about a loved one being killed is something I will never forget. Those soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice and we, as Americans, should never forget what they did for us and our country."
On one occasion, his wife, Shelia, went with him. Although Mrs. Grissom sat in the car while her husband talked with the family of a soldier, she witnessed firsthand the pain it causes a family hearing such terrible news.
"It was devastating for me just sitting in the car crying and watching the mother of a soldier be told by my husband that her son had been killed in the war," said Mrs. Grissom, who is from Harlem. "I put myself in her shoes, because I have a son who just returned from Iraq."
Specialist E-4 Domanic Johnson is now stationed in Germany. While in Iraq, the 23-year-old soldier, whose job is that of an engineer, was assigned to the IED team.
"I understand the dangers of war from both ends -- as wife and a mother," said Mrs. Grissom, a graduate of Harlem High School, who also is the mother of Sha Keya, 21, Sa'Riyia, 2 and a son, Ja'Mari, who is nearly two months old. Mrs. Grissom's mother is Ruby Brown, of Harlem. Her father is Robert Bradshaw Jr., of Boneville.
Maj. Grissom, who is a contract officer for First U.S. Army, works daily with foreign linguist contracts.
"I handle a lot of the financial work concerning these types of contracts," said Maj. Grissom during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "It's a rewarding and challenging job. It's one I enjoy a lot."
Maj. Grissom, a former student at Georgia College and later a student and graduate of Augusta State University with a bachelor degree in business administration, needs to complete just one more class before earning his masters degree in human resource management.
He plans on returning to the classroom to obtain his masters degree sometime in the next year.
The son of James "Bill" Grissom, Sr. and Lillie Grissom, of Dearing, Maj. Grissom said he learned many things from his parents. One of the most important was for him to learn to respect himself and others.
"My Dad would always tell us that we if we did those things, everything else would come together," recalled Maj. Grissom.
The elder Mr. Grissom, who is retired from Temple Industries in Thomson and now works as a custodian and security guard at Thomson High School, says he's "very proud" of his son.
His wife shares her husband's sentiment.