MALONE IS ONE OF FEW

In a few months, one of Pierce County’s own will proudly sing the lyrics to the well-known U.S. Air Force song as he heads off to the Academy in Colorado.

PCHS senior Dalton Malone, son of Kirby and Shannon Malone, will head off to the Colorado military school in June — and become a part of local history while he does it.

Acceptance into one of America’s military academies is generally considered a rare honor achieved by only a select few. Local students accepted have been rare. Among them are Kris Towers, son of Norris and Dorothy James, and Tom Echols, son of Earl Echols and the late Harriett Echols.

“It’s not common for a South Georgia kid to get in,” Kirby Malone says.

Acceptance to the Academy is extremely competitive, and Malone has been admitted with a full ride scholarship, including room and board.

“There’s thousands that apply to the academy … they except 300-500 kids out of high school each year,” Dalton adds.

Malone and his parents found out just a few weeks ago that he had made it in when Congressman Buddy Carter called the school to congratulate him.

Malone applied to the Academy his junior year, but the process has been lengthy and the waiting for an answer stressful.

Each applicant must secure a recommendation from a congressman, complete a physical assessment in addition to the written application, and fill out a tedious security clearance application too. Malone managed to secure two recommendations  — one from Carter and another from Senator Johnny Isakson.

Malone applied to eight other colleges and was accepted to them all, but the military is a “family thing” for Malone, and he’s had his sights set on attending a military academy since middle school. Malone’s father was in the Army national guard, his grandfather an Army officer and his great-grandfather a WWII veteran.

Malone recalls his dad would tell stories of sleeping in fox holes or underneath a tank and looking up to see condos where the Air Force slept.

“I figured that would suit me better,” he says with a laugh.

Malone is a good-natured, fun-loving teen, but he can be serious and intently focused on the goal ahead when needed  — a quality that most likely gave him an edge over other Air Force Academy applicants.

And, Malone finishes what he starts. His athletic, academic and extracurricular accomplishments all point to that fact.

Malone is an Eagle Scout, a feat only 2 or 3 percent of Boy Scout members actually obtain, his father says. He is also a black belt in Tang Soo Do, a karate-based Korean martial art.

Malone qualified for state competition as a wrestler four times and placed in the top five three times. He’s a 4-year varsity letterman in wrestling and football, a 3-year wrestling team captain, and a 2-year varsity track and field letterman.

Malone has competed twice in the national body physique competition, placing second and third in men’s physique and grand champion in the teen’s classic physique. In 11th grade, Malone won a weight lifting award for hardest worker.

Malone isn’t all brawn and no brains though. His academic accomplishments are just as impressive.

Malone entered his senior year at PCHS with a 99.3 academic average and a 99.5 overall GPA. He’s completed nine college courses, earning all A’s, and never made less than a 95 in any high school class.

Malone is a Georgia Merit Scholar and was selected as Mr. Junior by his classmates. He currently serves as senior class president and is a member of the First Southern Bank Junior Board of Directors.

Somehow Malone has found time to invest in several other extracurricular activities too, remodeling two homes before he turned 18, completing advanced Scuba diving training and working in several community volunteer projects.

Malone’s lengthy list of accomplishments and his leadership skills made his application stand out.

“Every sport I’ve done, I’ve always tried to lead by example, help other people out,” Malone says. “These service academies are to train officers to help lead other people and I guess they hope I can continue to do that in the Air Force.”

Now that his foreseeable future is clear, Malone is turning his attention toward high school graduation in May. Then, he’ll pack his bags and head off to Colorado Springs where he is to report June 27.  His folks will wish him well and wave goodbye as he heads off into the “wild blue yonder,” as one of the Air Force’s newest recruits.