Mallory Graves impressed 2nd Lt. Travis Miller with four words.
Graves, a Smith-Cotton High School junior, competed in the individual drill portion at the Northeast High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps drill meet, where Miller was a judge.
All afternoon, Miller said, he heard Graves talk about how eager she was to compete in the events.
Graves, who has Down syndrome, was eliminated from contention, and then Miller heard something that struck him.
“The first words out of her mouth were, ‘At least I tried,’” he said.
Graves was honored by Miller and his father, Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Miller, who gave Graves two special coins during a ceremony at the Smith-Cotton Friday. Both Millers are members of the Missouri National Guard.
Miller, a Smith-Cotton graduate, said the idea for the ceremony came about after he told the story of seeing Graves at the competition to his father.
The elder Miller said the coins are keepsakes and mementos that he is allowed to present to junior officers.
“This is something I present to people that I think have demonstrated one or more of the Army values,” he said.
Graves was presented the coin, he said, “because of her exceptional demonstration of her personal courage.”
The 17-year-old has been a member of the JROTC at Smith-Cotton for three years, and said she was surprised to get the award.
“I found this out from a telephone call from my commander,” she said.
“I always tell her that good things happen to people that do good things,” said her father, Kim Graves.
Graves supports his daughter’s participation in JROTC, and feels that it will teach her to recognize good leadership, he said.
“We’ve tried to love her and train her and adore her, but occasionally, she inspires us. It’s a treat being her parent,” he said.