By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)April 19, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. --Dakota Givens doesn't share much about his father.
"Normally, I don't talk about it. I don't tell strangers," he said. "But when they ask, I say he died for his country."
Nearly 10 years ago, Pfc. Jesse A. Givens died in Iraq while on patrol with 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, then based out of Fort Carson.
Dakota was 5.
"I miss coming home and having a dad to hug," said Dakota, now 15 and a freshman at Fountain-Fort Carson High School. "If he was here, I think he'd be proud of me."
Tuesday, members from the 3rd Armored Cav. Reg. honored Dakota with a $1,000 scholarship named for Jesse Givens.
"This is the first time we've ever given out this scholarship," said Harvey Reed, retired command sergeant major and executive director of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Association. "We wanted to give this to someone who will carry on (Jesse Givens') legacy."
Dakota accepted the scholarship in front of a crowd of teachers, school counselors, his mother and stepfather and the school's principal.
"This is helping people remember my dad," said Dakota. "I think it's pretty cool. It could help a lot of people out."
"For a freshman to receive a college scholarship, this has to be motivational for him," said Burnie Hibbard, Fountain-Fort Carson principal.
Melissa Givens, Dakota's mother, said she felt overwhelmed and thrilled Jesse Givens' memory will continue.
"That's our job, to not let people forget about him," she said. "We've come a long way so this is awesome."
For the past 10 years, Dakota said he's navigated the emotions with the help of his mother, brother and stepfather as well as counselors and friends.
"At first, I cut everybody out," he said. "Then I was angry. When I was 13, I was a bully. I started to pick on people. Now, I protect people. I'm different than what I was before."
Dakota said he isn't sure where he wants to go to college, but he has narrowed down his career choices to a police officer or therapist.
"I like to protect people," he said. "And I think I can relate to people because what I've gone through."
For now, Dakota is content to be a teenager.
A self-proclaimed ladies' man, Dakota said he enjoys the outdoors and hanging out with his friends. He draws, a hobby his father also loved. He enjoys history and gym and earns A's and B's in school. He said he's excited to get his learner's permit in a few weeks and hopes to drive a red pickup truck once he turns 16.
"I'm epically awesome," he said, laughing. "I'm loyal.
If my family or my friends need me, I'm there. … I think I'm a good guy to be around."