Karson McGraw has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
During his senior year of football, McGraw was asked by his Iola High coaches to play on the Mustang offensive line, even though at 150 pounds he was one of the smallest players on the team.
So he did.
Now, with his days at IHS in the rear view mirror, McGraw is ready for his next challenge.
The son of Kortney and Rhonda McGraw, Karson has enlisted in the Marines, and will head out June 6 for boot camp in San Diego.
McGraw spoke about his decision-making process.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after school,” he explained. “There wasn’t anything that really stood out to me. I didn’t see any colleges that I wanted.”
As he thought more, the options afforded him by the military sounded more promising.
And if he was going to enlist, it was going to be as a Marine.
“If you’re going to do something, go ahead and do it all the way,” he said.
McGraw signed his enlistment papers last June, after talking with friends who had also joined the Marine Corps, including Blake Mittelmeier and Kyler Allen.
“They didn’t really push me,” McGraw said. “They said, it would be tough, but they thought I could do it, and they thought I’d enjoy it.”
His parents needed a little more convincing.
“They’re nervous,” he said. “My mom is more nervous. I think my dad respects it.”
McGraw will be one of the few in his family to serve in the military. Both of his grandfathers served in the Vietnam era, “but they didn’t really push me into it.”
The plan is to specialize in communications.
McGraw was given the option of listing three specialties upon enlisting. His first choice was to work in military intelligence, “but that one is really difficult to get into,” he said. “As long as I don’t mess up in boot camp, I’ll get to work in communications.”
McGraw signed up for an eight-year commitment, the first four in active duty, then he’ll have the option of either staying in active duty or joining the Reserves for four more.
“If I like the experience, I’ll probably get a bachelor’s degree to try to become an officer,” he said. “But that’s still down the road.”
AMID the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down school campuses across the state in March, USD 257 school officials have pushed back the high school graduation ceremony indefinitely.
McGraw was among the students who received their diplomas early, because he is certain to be training in San Diego when, or if, a ceremony is held.
“I liked school, I enjoyed being with my friends, and I liked the teachers,” he said. “I know some of the kids were upset when they called off school, but it didn’t really bother me.”
THE MARINE Corps has a reputation as often being the first branch to enter combat hot spots around the world.
As such, the 13-week boot camp is renowned for its rigorous drills, designed to test a recruit’s physical and mental acuity.
McGraw prides himself on his athleticism. On top of playing football, he also was part of the IHS track and field teams.
The mental aspect is one he’s eagerly anticipating.
“I’m excited, but as it gets closer, I’m getting nervous,” he admitted. “It’s going to be tough.”