distinctly remembers playing football for Garfield High School
remembers the late Dan "Babe" Flossie telling him to keep trying, and good things would happen to him.He
turned those words of inspiration into his
philosophy for life. Downs
first came into contact with the U.S. army
shortly after his
high school graduation in 1965.Like many other young men his
was drafted and sent to Vietnam.After completing his
tour of duty, Downs
left the army, hoping to never look back.He went on to work for B.F. Goodrich for several years before a chance encounter at a local mall would change his life.
While shopping one day, he
met up with a local army recruiter.As Downs
talked with the recruiter, he
remembered Flossie's profound words, "Just keep trying."
"The recruiter convinced me to enlist in the ‘Try 1' program," recalls Downs
."You enlist for one year; and, if you don't like it, you can leave.After I finished that first year, I decided to try one more year.After that year, I joined for six."
Flossie's words of wisdom rang true for Downs
.Good things did indeed happen.That first year of service turned into 29 for Downs, who went on to graduate with honors from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School.
Today, Sergeant First Class Johnnie Downs is one of the most decorated soldiers in the Ohio Army National Guard.He teaches military leadership skills at the Officer Candidate School.
"I love teaching and motivating young people that join the military today," boasts Downs
."When you teach, you reach out and touch a life forever."Downs
has received many awards for his
teaching skills including being named Soldier of the Year twice.Most recently, Gov.
cites his parents and Akron Public Schools
as motivators for his
"My parents were my role models.Through them, I received common-sense training, a strong spiritual background and a good education," says Downs
."I received a good, basic foundation in Akron Public Schools.When you receive the basics, you can go on from there and be successful."
"If I could leave the youth of today with some good old-fashioned advice it would be this – stay focused on your goals, and you don't have to be in the military to be all that you can be.Hard work doesn't guarantee you anything, but you won't be successful without it."
...In addition to graduating from military school with honors, Downs holds four degrees from the University of Akron – technical education, criminal justice, community service and education.He
gained immense pleasure from watching his
son and daughter work their way through Akron Public Schools
(Firestone and Central-Hower, respectively).He
also has three grandchildren.His
grandson is a student at Margaret Park
two-year-old twin granddaughters are patiently waiting their chance to start school.
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