USAREC chief of staff inducted into high school's athletic hall of fame
February 28, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Walking through her high school for the first time in more than 20 years brought the memories flooding back for Col. Heather L. Garrett.
"The halls smelled the same, the pool smelled the same; it was truly like coming back home," said Recruiting Command's chief of staff, who grew up in the small, close-knit community of Hagerstown, about three and a half hours from Fort Knox in East Central Indiana.
It was there before a Feb. 16 varsity basketball game that she was inducted into the Nettle Creek Schools Athletic Hall of Fame.
As a Hagerstown High School Tiger, Garrett lettered four years in basketball and track, and three years in volleyball. She accumulated 1,015 career points in basketball, earned All-Tri-Eastern Conference (TEC) honors three times and was selected the team's most valuable player for three consecutive years. She earned two-time All-TEC honors in volleyball and track and was twice named team MVP in volleyball.
Accepted to both the Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Military Academy, she chose to go to West Point where she was also recruited to play basketball. Garrett was a power forward starter for the Army's NCAA Division II Sweet 16 Team her sophomore year and earned honorable mention all-conference her senior year with the Black Knights. While she admitted it was incredibly challenging to keep up with academic coursework in addition to being a varsity athlete, she never questioned her decision to go.
"I grew up in a disciplined home environment and knew at a young age the military lifestyle would be good for me," said Garrett, who's now been in the Army 23 years and on Fort Knox for the past 18 months. Other than her grandfather, who died when she was two, no one else in her family had been in the military and she knew no one in the military.
"You play sports for the camaraderie and teamwork, and when you find out it's something you actually excel at, it just prompts you to be better and instills a spirit of trying to be the best you can be," said Garrett. "Playing sports in high school is similar to the game of life -- you learn sacrifice, you learn determination, you learn commitment. As part of a team you learn the importance of being a leader, but also being led."
Garrett said it was humbling to be among this year's hall of fame class. Fellow inductee Mark House, who graduated a year behind her, attended the Naval Academy and retired from the Marines in 2010. Mike Woods, who was also inducted into his university's hall of fame in 2011, is the CEO and U.S. head of Deutsche Bank's global asset management division.
"We all talked about how sports set the foundation for our success -- the hard work, determination and those traits we all carried into our life and careers.
She said the induction weekend was like a mini reunion; they had not seen each other since high school and other than a brief trip home after West Point, she had not been back since graduation.
She said it was an incredible honor to be selected with this fourth class of inductees, which also included the high school's 1959 sectional championship basketball team.
Though her parents and 95-year-old grandmother -- who was the "transporter" to and from games and practices for her and her brother growing up - were unable to attend, she was able to share the weekend with her younger brother, Jason Bryn, who traveled from Virginia for the induction ceremony. Only a year apart in age, the two were very close growing up in a rural area.
"I was the ball-catcher and ball-thrower for every sport he did, whether it was basketball, football, baseball; it was always me and him."
It was also Jason who got her interested in basketball and encouraged her to try out for the basketball team in eighth grade. After watching the girls practice one day, he came home and told her she was just as good as half of the girls on the team and she should play. She said the next day she took the long, intimidating walk back through the industrial arts department of the junior-senior high school to ask the coach if she could play.
"He took one look at me and said, 'Oh, yes, by all means you can play,' even though we had 20 girls on the team," she said, admitting that it didn't hurt she was then already 5 foot 11 inches tall. By her freshman year she was playing on the varsity team, despite there being seven seniors on the team.
Garrett not only excelled in sports, she was also an A student in the top 10 percent of her 1985 graduating class of 113.
"I was going through my high school scrapbooks and I didn't even remember I had done some of the things that were in there," she said, adding that she had forgotten she competed in an area math competition at a local college, placing first in her school and third in the area. She was also a Gold Award Girl Scout and one of nine girls selected from across the country to serve on the Girl Scout national board of directors the first year girls served on the board.
While she doesn't like to talk about all she has accomplished, she is proud of her achievements.
"It's not that I set out to be the best, and I am not the best," Garrett said. "When I have the opportunity to talk with young people about my experiences, I like to tell them that if you take something you are interested in and follow that passion, you will learn things and can take what you've learned and apply it later in life."
Her favorite high school sports memory is not a specific award, game or event; it is more of a feeling, Garret said, adding that it is very emotional for her to think back about what that time in her life means to her.
"My team was always thankful for the contributions that I made. My teammates wanted me to do well and relied on me to do that; it was a role I wanted to fill and felt honored to fill," she said. "It's those feelings of appreciation for what I brought to the team that are the most memorable for me."