Blind student, 18, in Galveston is proud color guard member

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GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Being part of a military color guard is a challenging task for anyone. It requires precise, coordinated movement, rigid alignment and keen attention to detail.

For Breanna Hawkins, 18, a senior at Ball High School in Galveston, the role presented special challenges.

The Galveston County Daily News reports Hawkins, who has been legally blind since the age of 5 months, is a cadet of the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, an 85-year-old program at the school. Junior ROTC is a federal program offered at high schools to instill in students the value of citizenship, service, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.

She also is a member of the program’s color guard, which performs military ceremonies such as posting the colors — a highly choreographed presentation of the national, state and organizational flags— at events.

With streaks of purple and blonde highlights in her dark brown hair representing the school’s colors, Hawkins participated in her first home football game at Kermit Courville Stadium on Sept. 6.

“It’s cute that she has a tint of Ball High School purple in her hair,” retired Maj. Mark Knight, senior Army instructor, said. “And, although it’s not the Army standard, it’s hidden when she wears her beret, so I don’t mind.”

Hawkins got her first opportunity to carry out the purple and gold school flag during that first home football game — and no one was the wiser, Knight said.

“She was as professional as her demeanor,” Knight said. “She’s just one of the team around here where it’s ‘All for Ball.’ Breanna, along with her teammates, did an excellent job even in their short amount of time to prepare for the first game at home.”

Hawkins became a member of the junior ROTC her junior year, and comes from a long line of family members who also were in the program during their time at Ball High School, including her mother, father and a sister, Hawkins said.

“When I initially joined, I just did it to get my physical education credit,” Hawkins said. “However, once I became a member of the team and started practicing, I soon realized that I liked the precision marching and cadences. It makes me really excited to be a part of something that brings me great joy.”

Legal blindness is a level of visual impairment that has been defined by law either to limit allowed activities such as driving for safety reasons, or to determine eligibility for government-funded disability benefits in the form of educational, service, or monetary assistance, according to All About Vision’s website.

Hawkins, who loves art and one day would like to become a zoologist or veterinarian, doesn’t consider her disability an obstacle.

“I’ve always been an optimist,” Hawkins said. “I’ve thought about what it would be like for me to have 20/20 vision, but I refuse to allow my condition to stop me from doing what I want to do. We shouldn’t let obstacles stop us from achieving our goals.”

First Sgt. Eduardo Gonzales, who has been at the school in the junior ROTC program for 20 years, remembers seeing Hawkins walk by his classroom since she was a freshman looking curiously at the other students practicing and the pictures hanging on the walls along the program’s hallway on the first floor.

“When she finally asked me could she join the team, I said yes, and what took you so long,” Gonzales said. “She’s the first student with this sort of disability to be on our team and she’s been one of the most dedicated students in the program, too.

“She’s been a model cadet. I wish she could’ve been here all four years. She’s at every practice and does everything that we ask of her. We’re really glad that she’s a part of the team.”

Although Hawkins is technically considered a standby cadet, she’s always ready to step in when needed, she said.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to stay in line all the time, but if I focus, I know I can do it,” she said. “Being legally blind isn’t a limit or obstacle for me. I can do anything … if I put my mind to it.”

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com


This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Galveston County Daily News

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com


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