Top Stories of 2017: Lawson Barrett’s High-Flying Dream Comes True

Lawson Barrett at the Air Force Academy

For as long as he can remember, Lawson Barrett has wanted to fly jets.

When he was in the seventh grade, he told his parents his dream of flight and of attending a military service academy. While they didn’t take him seriously at the time, they certainly do now. Last week, Lawson’s dream became reality as he made his way to the Air Force Academy to enroll as a freshman.

After graduating from Oxford High School with honors in 2016, Lawson’s application to the Air Force Academy was initially rejected, sending him to New Mexico Military Institute instead. It was during this period of tribulation that Lawson’s father, Richard, knew that his son was never going to give up.  

“I was most proud of him when he faced the adversity of not getting in after his senior year at Oxford,” Richard said. “He said ‘I’m not going to give up on this dream.’ When he decided to go to New Mexico for a year, we knew he was going to make it because he was so determined. We’ve been so blessed. Lawson is a great kid, and it’s been incredible watching him grow up and mature.”

The Barrett family: (left to right) Anna, Stephanie, Lawson, Mary Cannon and Richard

With several family members in the armed forces, service seems to be in Lawson’s blood. His grandfather served in the Air Force during the Vietnam war. When it came time to tour the AFA campus, Lawson and his grandfather had the chance to spend quality time together, as he passed his memories and advice down to his grandson.

“He would always tell me about the Air Force, and he was excited when I started mentioning the Air Force as a possibility,” Lawson said. “He’s been by my side since this started, and being able to tour the campus with him while he told me about his memories from the Air Force was really nice.”

The application process for service academies is unlike any other application process. For Lawson, it spanned a year and a half. Candidates must meet with U.S. senators, write a number of essays, and demonstrate leadership in their communities. During his time at OHS, Lawson became a captain in the JROTC program and was awarded several merits, including Cadet of the Year. Lawson was also involved in Boy’s State, Eagle Scouts and his local church while soliciting nominations from Senator Cochran, Senator Wicker and Congressman Kelly before being accepted into the Air Force Academy.

Steve Guyton has been the state’s Military Service Representative since 1989 and is tasked with preparing candidates from Mississippi for their interviews and application process. Lawson and Guyton worked in tandem, and Lawson was highly appreciative of Guyton’s help.

“Mr. Guyton was the light on the tip of the boat showing me which way to go, and if I had any questions he was always there with answers,” Lawson said.

Richard added, “Steve Guyton is the right guy to know because he puts more work into helping young men and women in Mississippi excel than any other one person.”

Guyton helped Lawson through his application and now looks forward to seeing what he will do from here on out.

“It was my pleasure as Military Academy Rep for Senator Wicker to work with Lawson through Boy’s State and the Methodist Happening program while having the chance to get to know his character,” Guyton said. “Lawson is a young man of values who will serve our nation well and defend freedom and liberty for our nation.”

Lawson intends to major in biology or chemistry at the Air Force Academy. His commitment to the Air Force will last seven years, with two of those years set aside for flight training. While he has a long way to go, making it to this point is a monumental moment for Lawson and his family.

“This is such a big step and the start of a new chapter in my life,” Lawson said. “I’ve worked as hard as I ever have. I couldn’t have done it without the people around me, and despite the nerves that go along with it, I’m very excited about it.”

Steven Gagliano was the managing editor of at the time of this article’s publication earlier in 2017.

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