Military family grows in a Thanksgiving reunion

Story Courtesy of Fort Jackson

COLUMBIA — One family had a Fort Jackson-style reunion this Thanksgiving. A Basic Combat Training soon-to-be graduate had 40 members of his family flying and driving into familiar turf from across the country for his graduation Nov. 21.

Spc. Thomas LaGrant, 28, of the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Division, joined the leagues of his military family Wednesday.

It’s better late than never, his grandfather, retired Sgt. Maj. James Miller, said. Miller encouraged LaGrant to sign up for the Army straight out of high school.

LaGrant joins the ranks of three of Miller’s 12 grandkids and his four children in the tradition.

They have a long history at Fort Jackson. Miller was assigned there three times during his stint in the services, beginning with three years as a drill sergeant decades ago.
One of his daughters, Theresa Miller of Sumter, went through Basic Combat Training at the installation.

James initially volunteered for the Army in the midst of the Vietnam war. He reenlisted after serving. When his mom found out, “She cried,” he said. He stuck it out and encouraged subsequent generations of his family to follow suit.

“The military has been a way that provided me a career,” James said.

Theresa said “seeing how it builds character” is what inspired her to follow in his footsteps. “I wanted to embody some of that behavior,” she added.

She said the Army seemed like one big family and she wanted to be a part of that. Now, the Millers have their own big Army family.

Three generations are made up of retired or active Army members, though one relative broke the mold and joined the Navy.

Theresa and James weren’t sure LaGrant would ever serve in the military. One day, LaGrant called them both to tell them the news. He married and fathered two children before deciding the time was right.

“I’m ready now,” he told Theresa.

On Wednesday, relatives from as far as Maryland, Kentucky and Florida saw him graduate Basic Combat Training. They abandoned their tradition of a Myrtle Beach Thanksgiving and celebrated on post instead.

The ham and turkey are already ordered and thanks will be given for LaGrant’s decision to enlist, James said. “We’re glad to get together,” he said. “We’re proud of our grandson.”
James added they’ll enjoy this time together before LaGrant ships out to Fort Gordon, Ga., for Advanced Individual Training to become a member of the Army Signal Corps.

Theresa and her older sister took that path years ago. Theresa and James say this is the perfect place to hold the family reunion, since Fort Jackson means everything to their family.

“(Fort Jackson) is the beginning and the end for a lot of my kids,” James said.

Author: Rachel Howell

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