PALM HARBOR — As with any job, it's flattering to receive kudos from your immediate supervisor.
But it's absolutely mind-boggling to soak up praise from the organization's head honcho — especially if the top boss is the president of the United States of America.
Palm Harbor native James DeMoss, 26, received a shout-out from President Barack Obama during last week's graduation ceremony at West Point.
DeMoss' father, Joe, had written Obama a letter back in April asking him to recognize in his commencement speech the sacrifices and ongoing commitment of the 17 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans among the military academy's roughly 1,000 Class of 2014 graduates.
Obama did him one better.
He not only called for a round of applause for all 2.5 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families, but preceded the request by mentioning both James (a former Army reservist-turned-specialist who served 15 months in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008 as a police officer and gunner) and Joe (who wasn't sure his snail mail correspondence had even reached the White House) by name.
"I can't imagine the look on my face. As he called the name, everyone was staring at me and I had five or 10 minutes when I was just shaking," said James. "The president is the commander in chief, so he is the top top boss. For him to mention my name at all is really shocking. It definitely made the day much more memorable … and is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life."
Added Joe: "I was just hoping he would make a blurb about the combat veterans … but to call out my son's name made it even more special. It was just one big, proud moment."
James DeMoss shook hands with Obama as he and other students shuffled across the stage to receive their diplomas, leaving no time for one-on-one interaction.
But he's eager to see what the future holds.
DeMoss is a 2006 Palm Harbor University High School graduate and former University of South Florida ROTC cadet who was inspired to enroll at West Point by two platoon mates who died in Iraq.
He received an electrical engineering degree May 28.
Now a commissioned officer, DeMoss will serve a five-year Army commitment through May 2019 before deciding whether to venture into the engineering field as a civilian or extend his service.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.