Niagara Gazette — "I don't know how these things happen," Taylor said. "But they happen."
While the Army had a profound impact on Taylor, Barrett, a 1981 graduate, has made a living with the Marine Corps.
The highly decorated officer now spends his days testifying in front of congressional committees and walking the halls of the Pentagon, but he said none of his accomplishments would have been possible without his history at Lew-Port.
His awakenings, as he called them, came back as a fifth grade student, where as a 9 or 10 year old he was tasked with studying the Declaration of Independence and the constitution. Not just the documents, but the people who signed them, he said.
Learning about the various protections the country guarantees its citizens helped him better understand the sacrifices his colleagues and, later on, subordinates make when they enter combat, he said.
"I've seen the sacrifices and selflessness of young people," the Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran said. "I've seen them give all their talents and all their means, and in some cases, gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting free people who come and go about their lives. I've quickly learned over the last 30 years ... there are calls bigger than you. This is one of them but it started right here."
One of Barrett's friends growing up was also honored by the district. Daryl Johnston, valedictorian of the class of 1984, is by-and-large the most famous recent Lew-Port graduate, having won three Superbowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.
Though he was unable to attend due to his job as a color commentator with Fox NFL Sunday, his mother, Ann Johnston, briefly relayed a message he wanted the current students to understand.
"When I talked to Daryl (Wednesday) night, he wanted me to tell you 'This is your foundation,' " Ann Johnston said. "So go do the best you can do here. Find something you love to do and work hard for it."