Bookmark and Share

Amanda Takes Aim At Lifelong Dream

September 26, 2007

By J. Blake Ragsdale

Amanda grips her rifle tightly. The former Mills Home resident has been pushed to her limit during Army Basic Training at Fort Leonwood in Missouri. Exhausted, she remains focused, intent on passing the rifle qualification exercise. The youth’s finger tenses on the rifle’s trigger when her kevlar helmet slips down over her face obscuring her vision. Quickly she adjusts her helmet just as the small target springs up from the ground. She promptly takes aim, her body recoiling as she fires the rifle.

The exercise ends as quickly as it began.

Amanda stands at attention with the rest of her squad nervously waiting to learn if she successfully passed the exercise.

Standing before the group, the captain gruffly calls out Amanda’s name. He moves toward her and pins the “marksman” badge on her collar. Amanda is the first person in her squad to successfully pass rifle qualification.

Despite her achievement, the teen is dissatisfied with her effort. “I only got ‘marksman’,” Amanda says. “I was shooting for ‘expert’.”

Determined to be the best, the seventeen-year-old is taking aim at her lifelong dream to serve her country. Just as she overcame obstacles during the rifle exercise, Amanda has hurdled the difficult challenges of her life. Her four years living at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Thomasville campus provided her the structure, guidance, and care she needed to work through her challenges and pursue her dream.

Her nine weeks of Basic Training was the longest Amanda has spent away from Mills Home. The strong bond she shares with her longtime child care workers Sonya and Bobby Dalke strengthened her during the arduous experience.

“The Dalkes were first on my list when I was allowed to make phone calls,” Amanda says. “Hearing Ms. Dalke say the words ‘I’m proud of you’ was extremely important to me.”

Amanda is back in Thomasville to complete her senior year of high school before applying to military academy.

No longer living at Mills Home, Amanda is in BCH’s after care program and boards with a teacher from her high school. But Amanda’s BCH roots remain strong.

“I tell people I have a bed at everyone’s home,” Amanda jokes. “It’s great to know I’m welcome at the Dalkes and that they are still there to help me.”

At school, Amanda is serving as Battalion Commander for junior ROTC as well as commander for both the Rifle Team and Color Guard. If her plate wasn’t full enough, the teen is also editor for the high school yearbook and works as a waitress.

Amanda is excited as her future begins to unfold. Her dream to be a career Army officer and helicopter pilot is well in her sites.

“I don’t want to be a pencil pusher,” she says. “When people ask what Amanda is doing they’re going to say, ‘Oh, she’s out saving the world.’”