MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- With last week kicking off the new school year, Gen. Dennis L. Via, Commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Martinsville and Henry County, Va. students Aug. 28.

While at Magna Vista High School and Albert Harris Elementary, Via encouraged students to be determined and persistent about their academic studies while approaching education as a life-long pursuit.

"Realize your potential and what you can become....It doesn't matter where you start in life, there is nothing that you cannot achieve if you set your goals, work very hard and continue to press forward," said Via. "You can become anything you want to become, if you think it, believe it, you can achieve it."

Via's remarks motivated Magna Vista High School ROTC cadet, Taylor Phillips. "It makes me go towards my goals harder than I was before,." Phillips said.

Via shared praise and admiration for the faculty and staff, recounting how it was a teacher that made a profound impact on his life.

With his high school graduation looming and facing an uncertain future, Via's high school teacher and Army veteran Edward L. Fontaine worked with Virginia State University guidance counselors to enroll him as a freshman, consequently laying the foundation for his career as an Army officer.
Via credits the values, strong work ethic and sense of community he experienced in Martinsville as a contributor to his success.

He connected with the students on a personal level stating "I am from the same place as you, played on the same streets as you…if you take advantage of every opportunity presented to you…there's absolutely nothing that you cannot achieve."

Felicia Preston, Albert Harris Elementary school principal, shared what made Via's visit inspirational for the students.

"It means a lot to our school and staff, everyone was just so excited that he was coming. He is really our hometown hero and his visit is an opportunity for our students to see that they can achieve above and beyond just like he did," said Preston.

Throughout his career, Via has maintained a relationship with the city of Martinsville and his success is not only a since of pride for his wife Linda and sons Brian and Bradley but also the community at large.

"He is just living proof that you can be from a small town and succeed," said Preston.