Killeen West Point Grad Brings Motivation
Close your eyes, count to six and jump.
That strategy can work for drumming up the courage to jump out of an airplane or to make any life decision marked with uncertainty.
U.S. Army Lt. Darnell Brown returned home to Killeen to speak at the community freedom walk at Ellison High School, where he graduated from in 2015.
This week, Brown spoke to students at Killeen, Shoemaker, Harker Heights and Gateway high schools and Killeen Elementary School about living a life of integrity and overcoming obstacles.
Brown attended West Ward Elementary School and Fairway Middle School. His family moved around town and he attended two other middle schools in Killeen before settling at Ellison High.
His parents divorced when he was young and his mother was often busy with work, leaving Brown to care for siblings.
In high school, he said he felt like a misshapen piece that didn’t quite fit into the overall puzzle. His grades were average, but his involvement was extensive. He played several sports and participated in choir, chess club, student council and other groups.
A few months before graduation, he decided he wanted to attend a military service academy. He gained acceptance to a prep school, then to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 2019.
Today, Brown is a field artillery officer in an airborne cavalry unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He shared his experiences in several high school JROTC classes and at the elementary school that serves his old neighborhood.
In a pair of Harker Heights High School JROTC classes he emphasized the importance of living a life of integrity. He urged students to find an interest that motivates them to do their best, to build a team of supporters and to seek out an education to support their interests.
He asked students to describe their plans for their future. Student descriptions ranged from the deeply detailed to the broadly vague. Brown urged them to keep searching and to not be afraid to make a difficult choice.
“I had a fear of heights growing up,” he said. “I had to learn to jump out of a plane.”
He described the moment on an airplane when he was told that as an officer, he needed to make the first jump. The experience was the scariest and one of the best of his life. “I closed my eyes, counted to six and jumped.”
His most recent jump, from a helicopter, didn’t go as smoothly. His chute malfunctioned and he had to use his reserve to safely navigate to the ground.
As a teenager, he said, life is confusing because so many people try to give advice. “Find something that drives you, that motivates you to be the best you can be.”
Attending college out of state was a stretch, Brown said, describing the experience, as “wonderful, freeing and scary.”
“It feels like an honor I haven’t earned,” the officer said of the opportunity to speak to students in his hometown. “I don’t feel like a success because my story hasn’t ended and I have a lot I want to accomplish. Being able to reach out to kids is the greatest part of my career.”