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For Austin Hicks, military service is a family tradition and on Thursday his decision to carry on that duty in the United States Air Force was honored by his work family at Discount Automotive and Tire as well as the Rewritten Story Foundation.

Thursday was the 18-year-old’s last day of employment, Discount owner Tracy Story told Hicks' co-workers and family at a gathering in the shop. “This was a big deal to me because in today’s time we don’t see a lot of younger folks going in this direction and I think it’s extremely honorable and I love it.”

Story said he has always believed that like in other countries there should be two or four years of mandatory service. “I think that would really help develop people as they get older. So many people get older today — 18 or 19-years-old — and can’t manage a checking account, can’t manage a banking account, don’t know how to defend themselves. There’s so many things that you’re going to learn.”

He told Hicks, “You’re going to do really well because I know you'll do very well at everything you do.”

Story presented Hicks with a plaque of appreciation for his service at the company. “You’ve done a lot to help me over the years,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of years together but what you have done with me has made a major impact on me and I hope I’ve made an impact.”

Hicks told Story and his fellow workers, “It’s been a fun journey.”

His mother, Kim, said to Story, “Thank you for giving him a shot two years ago. You’ve been a good influence on him through the community service that you do. He was already a good kid but I just reiterated everything in his heart. What he has done before and what he needs to continue to do I thank you for that.”

Hicks’ father, Wayne, told those gathered, “Everyone of y’all has left a mark on him in one way or the other. He comes home with stories every night and tells us about y’all’s work day. He got a good mechanical education, he probably got an education on things I don’t know anything about.”

But, his father said, “Everyone of y’all he’s had a good time with — I can promise y’all that.”

Hicks said following the presentation, “I didn’t expect anything like this. It really means a lot. To me it helps show what kind of person Tracy is, putting so much effort into someone going into the service.”

He said he had thought about joining a lot before turning 18. “It’s easier to join now. You can join earlier but it’s not quite as easy. Now is the time I can go in.”

He graduated earlier this year and was home-schooled, a pathway he appreciates. “You go to a regular public or private school, they have the core work and then they have a bunch of filler work which isn’t really necessary whereas with home-schooling you really do what you need to do.”

He decided to join the USAF because he wants to work on planes. “There, there’s more planes, helicopters and all that to work on. There I get an education on that and I can take that with me if I so choose to.”

He plans on making the Air Force a career and will be a fifth generation member of the military. 

Hicks said he has always liked working with his hands. “I could do it all day. I enjoy working on cars. It’s been a good experience here.”

Of his son deciding to enlist, his father said, “It means everything. Austin is the 13th member of our family to serve since World War II. I’ve served, my brother, my oldest son has been in the Navy for 13 years, my nephew’s been in the Air Force for 16 years and the man I was named after was killed in Vietnam.”

Mr. Hicks said his son gained valuable experience working at the shop. “He’s always been a hands-on kid. He’s excelled here.”

He said the employees at Discount embraced his son and took him in like family. “He comes home every day laughing about stories, the shenanigans they pull on each other. It’s been delightful. The guys have been so good to him — bringing him in and treating him like family. It means everything to us.”

Mr. Hicks had six years in the Army. “I’m one of those who believes everyone should serve for a short period of time or a career. For me it was never a question because of the man I was named after and my family history. For me it was a great source of pride and I felt like I was accomplishing something while I was in there serving.”

Hicks’ mother, expressing appreciation about the experience her son gained at the shop, said, “I love this place. It’s been a good influence on Austin. Tracy, his leadership, the community service — everything is just 100 percent spot on. It means a lot to us. It means a lot to our son. We appreciate everything Tracy’s done.”

Mrs. Hick said her son has been talking about joining the military off and on for a couple of years. “He really got serious and made the decision not quite a year ago. He decided that’s what he wanted and started the process in February of this year.”

Hicks will leave for the USAF on October 9, his mother said. “He is the last one out of the house so when he’s gone we will completely be empty nesters. We’re so proud of him. He’s such a good kid, he’s so smart and he is driven. We know he will do great, he’ll love it and will fit right in. He fits right in everywhere he goes. He’s from a military family. We’re very proud.”

Story said the company takes pride in bringing in younger folks to work. “We take pride in being able to turn them into good men. That’s a big deal for me. We like to teach responsibility, we like to teach to be a man of your word. He already had a lot of those qualities. His parents and his family are great. He had a lot of those qualities when he came in.”

Story said, “If you look at the people in front of him and before him and his family that have served — that’s a heck of a tradition in that family. So he is absolutely following in the footsteps of his family. The best part is he’s not doing it because he feels committed to do it on that end, he’s doing it because he truly wants to do his part and I think that’s great.”

Story said not only has Hicks helped in the shop, but with the Rewritten Story Foundation as well. “He has done above and beyond here and his ability to learn and take things in from over the years — he just truly is a great young man. I’ve enjoyed being a partial mentor to him. I was able to take him into some directions he hadn’t been in before, especially on the non-profit side. But as far as just being a good human being and a good young man, he already had that. We just topped off the icing for him.”