At 57, Alabama man graduates again from basic training
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been eight months since Sgt. Gary Willford Jr., made headlines after deciding to reenlist with the Alabama Army National Guard at the age of 56.
Well, he’s back, and he says he wants to tell the “rest of the story” of the “old guy” who joined the Guard.
Willford already had more than 16 years in the military, but he made a fateful decision years ago that stopped him from continuing on. He thought he was just too old.
In January 2020, not long before the pandemic reached the U.S., Willford finally made the leap, saying he’d been inspired to serve his country again.
Asked why now, he responded at the time “to take advantage of the second chance that I’ve been given, to remedy something that I should have remedied a long time ago. To finish my career in the military.”
It wasn’t going to be an easy task. First, he had to lose 70 pounds. And he reached that goal, as well. In September, he was sworn in at the Fort George C. Wallace Armory and was set to serve as a military policeman with 214th MP Company in Alex City.
Now 57, Willford reveals the Army decided he needed to go back to basic training. On Thursday, the sergeant graduated - again - from basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
You can watch the Soldier Ceremony below where he is mentioned at the 13:20 mark.
Willford said he wanted to share this latest news, though not for self-promotion. According to the sergeant’s recruiter, by telling his initial story, Willford inspired another man who is 55, “and it motivated him to reenlist,” Willford said.
“If I can help in any way bring others into the Guard who thought it might be too late to serve, I want to do it,” he explained.
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