After Chance Meeting on Plane, 2-Star General Speaks at Private’s Basic Training Graduation

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As a recruit headed to basic training, Tyrice Melvin found himself seated next to Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., who had been the commander of Melvin’s basic training company. Three months later, Melvin met Beagle again, this time when Beagle spoke at his graduation ceremony. Photos via Twitter and US Army. Composite by Coffee Or Die Magazine.

When Tyrice Melvin shipped to basic training last spring, it was the first time he’d ever flown on an airplane by himself, but he still knew where not to sit.

“I walk on the plane and see the middle seat, and I was praying ‘Don’t be me,’” Melvin said, according to an Army press release.

He didn’t have a middle seat, but he shared a row with another flyer, and the two got to talking. Melvin told the stranger he was excited to be heading to Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina — a topic and a base that the two turned out to have in common.

Melvin’s accidental seatmate was Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division. Beagle is also the former commander of Fort Jackson and the Army Training Center that would be Melvin’s home for the next three months. He had even been the commander of the 193rd Infantry Brigade, the basic training unit that Melvin would report to in just a few hours.

After the flight, Beagle tweeted about the encounter.

“I said I could probably tell you a thing or two about South Carolina and basic training if you care to listen, and he did,” Beagle said in the press release. Melvin, Beagle said, didn’t quite seem to grasp Beagle’s position, but was polite and motivated.

As the two parted at the end of the flight, Beagle handed Melvin a note but told him not to read it until he got to Fort Jackson.

On the note was written three things: “Always quit tomorrow; you can try and fail, but never fail to try … and never let anybody ever tell you what you cannot do.”

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Tyrice Melvin’s seatmate on his flight to basic training turned out to be Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. The general gave the recruit a piece of paper with advice on it: “Always quit tomorrow; you can try and fail, but never fail to try … and never let anybody ever tell you what you cannot do.” US Army photo.

A week ago, the two were reunited — Melvin as a newly-christened private, Beagle as the featured speaker at Melvin’s July 28 basic training graduation.

“People said, ‘Now you gotta speak at his graduation. You’ve got to close that loop,’” Beagle told the graduates and crowd of families at Fort Jackson. “That is how I was coerced to come here today.”

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Matt White is the Military Editor for Coffee or Die. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years, and has over a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Know a story about any aspect of the US military that Coffee Or Die readers need to know? Email him.
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