Dominick Grilli has a list and a deadline. Everything needs to be done by June 26. On that list: saying goodbye to friends, taking exams, graduating from high school and cramming in as many days as he can on Clearwater Beach. Some things have already been checked off: His graduation announcement stationery came in a few weeks ago. He asked a sophomore to prom with a Frisbee-sized cookie. In frosting, he spelled it out: "You me prom?"
He offered her two more cookies. One said "Yes" the other, "No." She ate the first one, "and I felt like Rambo for a minute," he said.
Fitting, because the buff 19-year-old who sports an Italian flag bracelet ships out for the U.S. Army next month.
The Fivay High School senior has competed in swimming and wrestling. Coaches and recruiters peg him as a leader.
Andrew Medders, Fivay's wrestling coach, knows him as the student with the "greatest attitude. On top of his academics. Upbeat personality. Always looking out for little guy."
Medders remembers the beginning of the year. A few freshmen wrestlers were losing matches. They talked about quitting the team. Grilli caught wind of it.
He showed up to practice early, stayed late. He worked with them on the mats and taught them his techniques.
"He was willing to take not just a couple minutes," Medders said, "but as long as it took to help those kids."
At the last competition, one of those freshmen won three matches in a row, Medders said.
The Army commitment? It didn't surprise Medders.
"He thrives in a team environment," he said. "He's going to work hard. He's going to lead others. He's going to do what he's supposed to do."
Grilli put his name on the dotted line in the recruiting office almost a year ago. Since then, he's had physical training, or PT.
He spends Tuesday and Thursdays under a hot afternoon sun, pushing the ground in a parking lot behind the recruiting office.
"Don't stop on the ground!" Sgt. Jacob Vaughn calls down the line of new recruits. "Push!"
Swimming and wrestling have given him an edge. He does his push-ups at almost twice the speed of most of his peers: 90 in two minutes. He can do 65 sit-ups in that time. He encourages the other recruits. High-fives them when they've done their push-ups. His sergeants are impressed.
"If everyone was like him," said Sgt. Jonathan Cargile, "we wouldn't have any problems."
Grilli says he'll make a career out of his time in the Army. He wants to travel. After boot camp, he's geared to become a 19 Delta Calvary scout. After 16 weeks of boot camp and two weeks of airborne school, he'll be the eyes and ears of the battlefield.
After 20 years, he says, he'll retire. He wants a family along the way.
"Wife, kids, house, dog," he said. "All that good stuff. And cherry pie."
In the meantime, though, he's living his last days as a high school student. He'll spend time with family and friends. Prom is Saturday.
His date says she's proud to be going with a soldier.
Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.