LOA senior Hatfield signs with Naval Academy

With U.S. Representative Jody Hice by his side, Lake Oconee Academy senior Bobby Hatfield signs an appointment to attend the U.S. Naval Academy this past Tuesday.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard



Bobby Hatfield had his hair cut high and tight.

He wore a plain black jacket and white shirt, but had on a gold tie with the letters ‘USA’ stitched onto it. If you walked in off the street and knew nothing about the ceremony held Tuesday at Lake Oconee Academy, it would have quickly been apparent Hatfield was signing with a branch of the military.

Hatfield, a member of LOA’s inaugural graduating class, signed an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy inside LOA’s Community Hall. He was joined by numerous friends and family members, classmates, school administrators and U.S. Representative Jody Hice (GA-10).

“I am humbled so deeply right now,” Hatfield said once the festivities died down and the photo ops were over. “This is just really incredible. This has been a long day coming and I thank God that it's here.”

LOA CEO Dr. Otho Tucker opened the ceremony by greeting the many people gathered.

Tucker mentioned he had a child who previously attended West Point in California. He told Hatfield to expect a great deal of camaraderie once he arrived to Annapolis, Maryland.

“The young men and women that you will be involved with at the academy are young men and women that are ready to give their lives for their country,” Tucker said. “Also, those people are ready to give their lives for you. You're going to be standing next to a group of people that see your life just as important as their life. That has to be a proud moment for anyone to be a part of a team that is so committed to the health and welfare of the United States of America.”

It’s appropriate to mention the concept of a team when talking about Hatfield. He plays center field for LOA’s varsity baseball program and is part of the school’s chapter of the National Beta Club. He is also an active member of Lakeside Church.

Those were just a few things Hice mentioned when discussing Hatfield’s path to the Naval Academy. The two met when Hatfield was an eighth-grader.

Their paths crossed during one of Hice’s many Service Academy Days, which his website describes as events “designed to familiarize students with the application and nomination process for the nation’s five military service academies.

Hice said Hatfield attended several Service Academy Days. He regularly made an impression on the congressman.

“It seems like Bobby's been there every time, the first one in line,” Hice said. “He's going to meet everybody that's there. He's going to get all the information. He has done everything by the book. I cannot express to you the honor it is to be here and share this day with you.”

Hatfield said Hice was the reason he earned the appointment. That made Tuesday’s celebration extra special.

“I could not be more honored to have Congressman Hice here,” Hatfield said. “You could not have a better man to give such a nomination – he nominated me, which allowed me to get the appointment. You can get them from lots of places but I could not be more happy to have such a fine man and representative to give me this nomination.”

Hatfield will attend the Naval Academy for four years. Once he completes his degree, he will provide four years of service.

Hice spelled out all the implications of Hatfield’s appointment to the crowd.

“This is like being given a full ride to any Ivy League school that you can think of,” Hice said. “He's going to get a full ride. He's going to get room and board. He's even going to get a stipend for being there. Of course, he's committing years afterward of serving the greatest country and the greatest military in the world.”

Hatfield knows exactly what lies ahead. He said serving in the military has been a dream of his for years. Because of that, Hatfield said he’s prepared to make the personal sacrifices necessary to complete his appointment.

“We're not a military family. Neither one of my parents were military,” he said. “This is just something that I've felt's always been put on my heart to serve. I'm glad to do it.”

Once Hice wrapped up his presentation, he opened the floor for anyone who wanted to share their well wishes with Hatfield.

His grandmother, Brenda Pickett, was the first one up.

Pickett recalled how Hatfield read from his Bible every day as a young child before doing his homework. She fought back tears as she described Hatfield’s humbleness and said “his faith in God inspires me.”

“I've always known that he had great things to give back to this world,” Pickett added. “His desire to do that just strengthens me.”

Caroline St. John, an Advanced Placement literature teacher at LOA, took the podium next and talked about how good of a student Hatfield is in her class.

She discussed how he was an outgoing member of Youth Leadership Greene, which brought together numerous students from around the county. Before closing, St. John read from an essay Hatfield wrote earlier this school year.

“'I want to be where I can become the very best version of myself,'" St. John read. “’My country deserves nothing less. My generation will soon be charged with the awesome responsibility of passing the liberty we inherited to the next generation and we will not let our country down.’”

Fellow senior Eli Ramsey was the final person who spoke before Hatfield officially signed with the academy.

Ramsey spoke about the friendship he and Hatfield built the past several years, saying they “pushed each other mentally, physically and spiritually.”

He said he is proud to see Hatfield fulfill his dream, even if it means they won’t be together anymore.

“I'm sad to lose Bobby,” Ramsey said. “But I'm glad our country can get him.”

Finally, the moment came for Hatfield to make his commitment to the Naval Academy official.

Community Hall grew quiet, interrupted only by the shutters and clicks of cameras, as Hatfield put pen to paper and signed the appointment. When he was finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation as Hice stood and embraced him.

It was a grand moment, one Hatfield and his family and friends are sure to remember forever.

“I never really considered doing anything other than serving my country,” he said. “When I signed it, it just felt right. It just felt normal. It was like breathing. It was what I was supposed to do.”

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