Left to right, Lewisburg High School principal Kris Perkins, Mary Murphy senior, and instructor and coach Allison Stanford. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
When the class of 2022 at Lewisburg High School graduates later this spring, the many students will take and soar in definite directions as they pursue their future plans, whether college, work or service. military, or whatever.
For senior Mary Murphy, daughter of Jennifer and Andrew Murphy, she will take flight about a month after graduating with the goal of earning another degree, as a member of the US Air Force Academy Class of 2026 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
With this, Murphy will also receive a second lieutenant’s commission and begin what she hopes will be at least a 10-year commitment as an Air Force pilot.
“I want to be a pilot, it’s my dream job,” Murphy said. “I’ll take any job as long as I can help people, but if it were up to me, I’d be a fighter pilot.”
Service was a key part of Murphy’s time at Lewisburg, where she served as vice-president of the school’s Interact club, board member of the National Honor Society and the English Honor Society. Murphy said she was also the artistic captain of the school’s Create for Better club. Athletically, Murphy was on the Lewisburg powerlifting team and she is involved in track and was on the school cross country, where Allison Stanford coached.
“She’s fierce,” Stanford said of Murphy. “She sets the goals and she gets there.”
His athletic skills will be immediately tested when he arrives at the Academy’s Colorado campus in late June.
“Like when you’re a freshman until about April, when you have recognition, you have to run around,” Murphy said. “You can’t walk anywhere, you have to carry your rucksack in your left hand, you have to wave to everyone you meet. There are a bunch of small but specific rules you follow, all just to instill discipline.
This will only be the beginning, albeit a routine one, of the steps in a journey Murphy will take in pursuit of what she hopes will earn the controls of a fighter jet.
Flying is something she has wanted to do for some time.
“The first time I flew was to see my brother at his basic graduation,” Murphy said. “Suddenly I had this experience of flying and the experience of being on a real military base. It got super interesting to me. It’s almost like another world experience. You can see everything below you and it’s just something above that has control to fly. I like to go fast and fly.
Murphy also gained experience to prepare her for what awaits her as a member of the DeSoto Civil Air Patrol Squadron. His choice to attend the Air Force Academy fits well with his goals for his future and his desire to fly.
“I wanted to serve and I wanted to fly, so what better than the Air Force, and I also wanted a college education,” Murphy said. “I wanted to have the best opportunity to serve my best and have the best training.”
Going to one of the service academies is not easy. There are many facets to being selected as one of approximately 1,100 new members of the Cadet Wing.
Murphy said the application process was long.
“You had to fill out a pre-candidate questionnaire first just to become a candidate and once you reach that status, you have your normal college stuff, like transcripts, essays and the like,” Murphy recounted. “There’s also a physical that you have to get, a candidate fitness assessment, which is a lot of running tests, pull-ups and push-ups, a basketball throw, all kinds of things that you have to to succeed.”
Murphy is on Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s list of academy nominations, though she also received nominations from Congressman Trent Kelly and Sen. Roger Wicker.
Assessments offered by teachers, a coach and principal Kris Perkins were also required, along with an interview with a liaison officer and a former Air Force Academy graduate.
Her major is yet to be decided, although Murphy has said she would like to study aeronautical engineering or some other kind of engineering. But the dream goal remains to be a pilot.
Its manager Kris Perkins is confident that Murphy will achieve his goals.
“I’ve had the privilege of seeing three other students go to the Air Force Academy from different schools here in the county and Mary fits exactly the pattern of who does and who doesn’t,” Perkins said. “She’s going to be awesome when she gets there. She didn’t pick something she can’t do, and it’s something she’s committed to.