FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Feb. 12, 2015) -- Like many other Soldiers, Pvt. Bakim Lewis joined the Army to continue the family tradition of representing the United States -- although he does so in a slightly different way than his father.
Lewis, who graduated from Basic Combat Training with the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, Feb. 5, is the grandson of track and field athlete, Evelyn Lawler, the nephew of long jumper, Carol Lewis, and the son of nine-time Olympic gold medalist, Carl Lewis.
Carl Lewis attended graduation to show his support for his new Soldier.
"This is just pretty amazing to see all these parents come together from all (over) the world and watch their child graduate to become a Soldier," the elder Lewis said.
He said he saw apprehension in his son before he left.
"I think his nervousness was from the idea that he did not want to be sent here without knowing what it was going to be like," the father said. "Now, what I see is his transformation is just summed up in one word -- purpose. What I see out of Bakim now is that he has a clear purpose. Now it's like, 'I know what my life can be and I can control that and I know someone is going to be there to support me all the way."
The track star said upon graduating high school he told his son he had three choices.
"Either you can work for me, yourself or the government. You move out on your own, get a job, pay for your own health care. If you work for me you go to school full-time, or the government you go to the military -- that's it," the father said.
The younger Lewis said serving his country was always his first choice, not track and field.
"Believe it or not, joining the Army was actually my first choice. Although I moved to multiple schools, I participated in Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and I loved it," the Soldier said. "I was always called on to lead these packs of cadets to teach them the rules and the way things were put together."
The Soldier said, although Junior ROTC is not the same as the actual military, it still gave him his first taste of camaraderie and military discipline.
"I still just procrastinated a lot with making the final decision to join, so I decided to go to college and then after about a year in to college at the MediaTech -- Institute for Technical Arts I decided this was not for me and decided to join the Army," he said.
He said he struggled a little with the physical training during Basic Combat Training.
"Coming into the Army I was not as fit as everyone else may have been, but I am very athletic," he said. "At my first physical fitness test my pushups and situps were borderline passing, and then my run I just blew it out of the water, so I got a lot of questions like, 'How did you just do 35 pushups and then turn around and do less than 13 minutes on your two-mile run?'"
The Soldier said his answer was, "Running is just my thing. I am just good at it."
"I also told them my dad ran track, and one thing led to another and then word just spread all over the place," he said.
The track star said he is proud of his son's decision.
"For me, I can kind of exhale a little bit now because I feel that he is on a great path," he said. "Of all the things my family has done, Bakim is going to be the one whom the average person walks up to every day and thanks him for his everyday service, and I am really proud of that. ... He is my hero and little knucklehead, but he'll also be millions and millions of other people's hero as well."