Independence High School Juniors Leave for Basic Training Before Senior Year

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va (WOAY) – Many men and women in the area will set out for military basic training in the coming weeks. But Newswatch reporter Anna Saunders introduces us to two Independence High School students who will do it before they get their diploma.

Gage Barrett will not have the typical summer before his senior year.

On Tuesday, he leaves for South Carolina to join the Army.

“It gives me a head start on the other people that will be joining the Army,” Barrett said. “I know that I’m going to be ahead of them so people that will be my age, I’ll be higher ranked than them, I will have more time in than them, and it just gives me a head start above everybody else.”

But he will not be alone as he heads out for basic training. His friend, Zack Ward, another upcoming senior, will be joining him.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. This is bringing us closer of course,” Barrett said. “We know that we’re going to be alone. We’re not gonna have anybody else. We’re gonna have to make completely new friends and we already have each other, so that will make it easier.”

It is unusual for military recruits to start basic training before finishing high school, but both Ward and Barrett felt this was the best decision for them.

“Just sitting there with him, for him to make that decision at such a young age,” Stephen Barrett, Gage’s father said.  “It was all him. I’ve had people tell me there’s no other options in the area for him. That’s not why he did it. He did it because he loves America. When you walk into his room, American flags, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags everywhere. That’s just who he is.”

The two young men contribute to a long list of students from Independence who have chosen to serve in the military. Barrett’s recruiter even said they get the most people from his high school.

“Even the name Independence. We take a certain amount of pride in patriotism and love of country, so it just kind of fills in with our students that way,” Independence High School history teacher Jon Moore said.

When Barrett returns for his senior year in the fall, he will have to give up some weekends to continue training, but he knows his service to his country would make his grandfather proud.

“My grandfather was a Green Beret in Vietnam,” Gage said. “That’s a lot behind me. He’s unfortunately not here.  He passed in 2007, but I still feel like he’s with me. It’s just a lot of military history and it’s there, and I know that it’s there. I just feel like I don’t want to disappoint them.”


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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.