May 26, 2013

Longtime Buddy match still keep in touch

Daniel Branham considers himself a good example of “It Takes a Village.” He feels that he has had outstanding community support as he grew up. When he was in first grade, Daniel became matched to Anthony Bridges through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Georgia. He says they have been friends ever since. They were a part of the Buddy Program from their first grade match until Daniel graduated from high school. In this program, volunteers visit with their Little Buddy in the school setting once each week.

Daniel and Anthony spent a lot of time together during all of those years. In a recent visit with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Anthony asked Daniel if he remembered his elementary school idea of what he most wanted to do with his life. He did remember and his answer was, “ I wanted to work at McDonald’s and buy a Dodge Viper.”  

Daniel aspirations have changed a great deal since that elementary school plan. He graduated from high school, then spent two years looking for a job which he never found, but good things were to come.

Besides Anthony, Levi and Staci Kilgore have known Daniel since he was 5. They are in the same church, Hopewell Baptist, and have been, in Daniel’s words, “like my adopted parents.” Daniel says the Kilgores “took care of me and always want the best for me.” During the two years Daniel was job searching, he became a Big Buddy through the church. Several adults at the church served as group mentors to younger children at the church and Daniel became one of the mentors with the encouragement of the Kilgores. During this time, Levi took Daniel to the Navy recruiting office. He says he had to take him twice. The first time, Daniel was unwilling to pursue joining the Navy but the second visit was different and he signed up.

Also during this time, though their match had closed due to Daniel’s graduation, Anthony remained in contact with Daniel. They would have lunch together as often as possible and Anthony would always remember Daniel on his birthday and at Christmas. Daniel says that Anthony “has always been there for me, and he has always given me positive advice.” He says Anthony “stayed on me about my grades” and always pushed me to “tighten up.”

In 2009, Daniel received his first Navy deployment and was stationed in Japan. He clearly enjoys talking about his experiences. He served as a boatswain mate. Some of his responsibilities on the aircraft carrier were mooring, bringing on cargo and fuel. The ship was in port at the time of the earthquake off the coast of Japan. He speaks of having to undo the lines, wait for the surge to abate and retie the lines.

During that four year deployment, he spent six months in port and six months at sea. His favorite times were port times. He says he really liked the Japanese people and the Japanese food. He also has enjoyed visiting many places including Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Okinawa and Guam.

Daniel has just signed up for another four years in the Navy and has received his assignment to Norfolk, Va. as his home port. He says he will be at sea for the first seven months but again, looks forward to time spent on shore. He says this sea time will be a little harder because he will be at sea for Christmas and for his birthday. As always, Anthony and the Kilgores will stay in touch. Daniel has access to Facebook and Skype, and Christmas and birthday gifts will find their way to any place in the world his ship happens to be. 

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