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At 57, Alabama man graduates again from basic training

Sgt. Gary Willford Jr. and the rest of the "Spartans" pose for a class photo after graduating...
Sgt. Gary Willford Jr. and the rest of the "Spartans" pose for a class photo after graduating from basic training at Fort Jackson South Carolina.(Source: Sgt. Gary Willford Jr.)
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been eight months since Sgt. Gary Willford Jr., made headlines after deciding to reenlist with the Alabama Army National Guard at the age of 56.

Well, he’s back, and he says he wants to tell the “rest of the story” of the “old guy” who joined the Guard.

Sgt. Gary Willford Jr. spent 16 years in the military before deciding not to continue because...
Sgt. Gary Willford Jr. spent 16 years in the military before deciding not to continue because he thought he was too old. At 56, he changed his mind and reenlisted with the Alabama Army National Guard.(Source: Sgt. Gary Willford Jr.)

Willford already had more than 16 years in the military, but he made a fateful decision years ago that stopped him from continuing on. He thought he was just too old.

In January 2020, not long before the pandemic reached the U.S., Willford finally made the leap, saying he’d been inspired to serve his country again.

Asked why now, he responded at the time “to take advantage of the second chance that I’ve been given, to remedy something that I should have remedied a long time ago. To finish my career in the military.”

It wasn’t going to be an easy task. First, he had to lose 70 pounds. And he reached that goal, as well. In September, he was sworn in at the Fort George C. Wallace Armory and was set to serve as a military policeman with 214th MP Company in Alex City.

Now 57, Willford reveals the Army decided he needed to go back to basic training. On Thursday, the sergeant graduated - again - from basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

You can watch the Soldier Ceremony below where he is mentioned at the 13:20 mark.

Graduation Ceremony - 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment - 20 May 2021

Graduation Ceremony - Companies A, C, D, & E - 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment 165th Infantry Brigade United States Army Training Center & Fort Jackson Hilton Field 20 May 2020 ** Attention: Please do not click on any links in the comments. You do not need to go to another site to watch the graduation. Fort Jackson will not ask you to pay to watch this graduation.

Posted by 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment on Thursday, May 20, 2021

Willford said he wanted to share this latest news, though not for self-promotion. According to the sergeant’s recruiter, by telling his initial story, Willford inspired another man who is 55, “and it motivated him to reenlist,” Willford said.

“If I can help in any way bring others into the Guard who thought it might be too late to serve, I want to do it,” he explained.

Mission accomplished.

Sgt. Gary Willford Jr., shares a celebratory kiss with his wife after graduating from basic...
Sgt. Gary Willford Jr., shares a celebratory kiss with his wife after graduating from basic training for the second time.(Source: Sgt. Gary Willford Jr.)

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