During the month of November, PHL17 is honoring service members in a special segment titled, “Veterans voices.”
Jimmy White IV dedicated his life to empower the next generation of leaders in South Philadelphia.
It was a homecoming of sorts for White as he walked down the halls of his alma mater, Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP). While there, White excelled in sports, academics and the fine arts. “I sung in many choirs. I got a chance to travel the world. We traveled to Italy and performed there,” said White.
He was a well-rounded student, who was confident in his abilities and had clear goals on how to attain success.
Shortly after high school, that clarity became clouded. “I went to college and it didn’t work out the first time,” he said. “I went to college twice. I dropped out. My mother pulled me aside and said, ‘Son, you don’t have direction and you don’t have focus.'”
He decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and enlist in the navy as a nuclear electrician on submarines. “In 2003, my submarine the USS Montpelier was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We were apart of shock and awe,” White said.
The military provided the discipline and structure White needed to build his character. He was awarded the “Junior Sailor of the Year” award for his submarine. “It was an amazing award. For me to celebrate with my father, who was a submariner, and my mother,” said White.
However, that was one of the last times he would celebrate with both parents. His mom passed away shortly after that. Her last wish was for him to come back to Philadelphia and service the community.
White did just that. He came home, married his wife who also attended GAMP and had 3 kids. But, something was still off.
“I had this hole, this gap. Something was missing. I was living the American dream, but I didn’t do what my mother told me to do,” he said.
Feeling convicted, White reached out to the Veterans Affairs office and connected with other service members who shared similar experiences.
White’s life has since come full circle. He is now back at GAMP, but this time as a mentor. “I try to give back to young people and explain that you can forge that character today. I did it with the crucible of war, but you’re doing it with the crucible of Covid-19.”
White strives to uphold his mother’s legacy while encouraging other veterans to step up too. “Be a part of the community. Be a leader. Support others. Do a buddy check. Help another veteran who may be in a tough situation.”
White’s next project is to feed needy children. He is working with the Travis Manion foundation to donate 400 turkeys to elementary and middle school students in south Philadelphia.