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Growing up at FMS

Liam McNamara remembered being “a little scared, a little timid” at his first graduation weekend at Fishburne Military School as an eighth-grader.
“Seeing the valedictorian, it had a high place in my mind,” said McNamara, a day student at the Waynesboro prep school. “Being up there giving the valedictorian speech to a new class of eighth-graders is kind of humbling,” McNamara said.

A lot can happen in a few years. McNamara went from a scared, timid eighth-grader from Augusta County to a graduate with an appointment at West Point and a chance to walk on to the football team at the University of Virginia who passed both of those opportunities up to accept an academic scholarship at Division III Washington and Jefferson, where he will also play football for the powerhouse Jeffs.

Classmate John Holl hopes to be able to build on his Fishburne career at The Citadel and maybe as time allows even work in a little drill-team practice here and there. Holl and fellow ’09 FMS alum Jordan Gallina represented the school at the 2009 National Drill Team Competition in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May.

It was hundreds of hours out on the drill field throwing rifles 20 feet in the air and sometimes taking a rifle butt on the head or shoulder or, ahem, ouch, dude, somewhere else sensitive. “It’s up to you to teach yourself if you want to do anything bigger,” Holl said. “We’ve watched a lot of drill videos of the U.S. Army drill team, a lot of college drill teams, Abdul Al-Romaizan, who is considered the best spinner in the world, taking moves from them and trying to come up with new ones on our own to get to the level where we can do things like compete in nationals.”
“You start with the basic moves, the one-hand spin, and then you progress into the big moves, like throwing it above your head 20 feet into the air, or you throw it 20 feet in the air toward your partner. Once you progress, your hands are calloused from hitting them all the time,” said Gallina, who will be studying at Edison State College in Florida in the fall.

“You learn how far you can go, and then you push yourself further. If you throw a quad one day, you’re going to try for a quint the next. You’re going to hurt yourself, but no pain, no gain. You have to want to get better,” Gallina said.

McNamara knows where he learned that important trait. “I owe a lot to Fishburne, I really do,” McNamara said. “At times it’s been kind of rough, but I don’t think I’d be where I’m at right now if it weren’t for Fishburne. Definitely athletically, and academically, I don’t think so. A lot of doors have been opened up, a lot of opportunities. People ask me what Fishburne means to me, and I tell them it’s made me who I am, it’s made me a better person, made me more outgoing, everything. It’s rounded me into the person that I am today.”


– Story by Chris Graham