June 8, 2016 Edition

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Bigger graduates from
Naval Academy

Bigger earned a Bachelor of Science in History as well as a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps from the Academy.

Aubree Hughart
Staff Writer

Sully Bigger, a 2012 graduate of Crowley's Ridge Academy in Paragould and resident of Walnut Ridge, recently graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

He graduated on May 27 with a Bachelor of Science in History degree, as well as a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Sully is the son of Dana and Jim Bigger of Walnut Ridge. His parents, along with maternal grandparents, Sam and Dianne Burns of Walnut Ridge; paternal grandparents, Nancy and Eddie Bigger of Marion; brother, Jake; aunt, Melanie Hicks and cousins, Audrey Jane and Gracie Hicks, attended the graduation festivities during the final week of May in Annapolis.

Bigger stated that he had always been interested in enlisting in the military, but his interest in the Marines and the Naval Academy was piqued when he was in the eighth grade and a teacher gave him a book about the school. He began taking the proper courses and set a goal of attending the Academy.

Before his high school graduation in May 2012, Bigger received nominations to the Naval Academy from both Congressman Rick Crawford and Senator John Boozman after many essay applications and interviews.

In addition to his course load of normal college classwork, Bigger also participated in intense military training. During his time at the Academy, his name appeared on both the Superintendent's List and the Dean's List, which is based on academic grades, military ranking, peer and officer reviews, athleticism and physical performance.

Bigger served during his senior year as the logistics officer for the culminating freshman class course finals, where he was in charge of gear and food for the 16-hour course. He was also the safety officer in his battalion and second in command of the Drum and Bugle Corps.

Outside of academics and training, Bigger played with the U.S. Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps during all four years of the program. He began playing the baritone and later moved to the tuba. Being a part of the Drum and Bugle Corps afforded him the opportunity to travel around the United States with the band to cities such as San Diego, Boston and New Orleans to play at sporting events as well as march in parades, such as the parade at Boston's annual reenactment of the Battle of Lexington.

Graduation festivities commenced on Sunday, May 22, with the baccalaureate services, where graduates who chose to do so signed their commission dedicating themselves as not only an officer but as a follower of God.

Monday, graduates and their families were able to watch as the freshmen of the Naval Academy completed their final classes with a tradition called the Herndon Climb. During this event, freshmen scale the 21-foot-tall obelisk Herndon Monument greased in lard using teamwork skills learned throughout their first year of school.

On Tuesday, receptions such as the superintendent's reception filled the day for graduates and parents, followed by a Blue Angels fly-over show on the field on Wednesday.

Thursday morning included a color parade honoring the company who did the best overall throughout the previous year.

Culminating the week of celebration was Friday's graduation ceremony, where 1,082 students graduated from the United States Naval Academy, including Sully Bigger. During the ceremony, the soon-to-be graduates march in wearing their old covers (hats) from the Naval Academy. Once they toss their hats into the air upon receiving their diplomas, they go into the crowd to find moms, girlfriends or sisters who hold their new official Marine and Navy hats.

Sully's mom, Dana Bigger, was proud to give her son his new official hat upon his graduation. "It's always a big picture at graduation for them to toss up their old hats - I had his official Marine hat for him to put on after the ceremony was over, and it was just a proud moment for any parent."

Additionally, Bigger followed the tradition of the "first salute" - graduates pick a person who had a meaningful impact in their life to be the first person to salute them as an officer immediately after graduation. Sully chose to receive his first salute from Staff Sergeant Baeza, the senior enlisted officer for the Drum and Bugle Corps, who Sully said had been a mentor to him during the program.

Now that the celebration is finished and Bigger has received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, he is spending the month of June quietly with his family. He is committed to five years in the service, and at the end of June he will return to the Naval Academy in Maryland to work with the Drum and Bugle Corps as an officer. In September, he will report to Quantico, Va., to attend The Basic School for the Marine Corps basics officers' course, which will last six months.

Bigger has already accomplished so much during the four years since he has graduated from high school and will continue to do much more serving our country as his commission begins.

Sully advises students interested in pursuing a career path similar to his to never stop trying to go further.

"If you reach a point, where you think you've done all you can do - try to find something else," he said. "You can always find a point or excuse where you say, 'oh, I'm done now,' but someone else, somewhere else found a way to go past that ... If you want to keep pace with the other person, you have to always find ways to keep pushing on."

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