As a child, Adam James lay awake at night, consumed by thoughts of one day finding a caring family and becoming a success. With an absent father, a substance-abusing mother and little in the way of resources, the odds seemed to be stacked against him. But in those wee morning hours, James decided that perseverance was the key to success, and he refused to give up.
After graduating from high school, he seized the opportunity to enlist in the U.S. Air Force — a choice he said changed his life forever.
“The Air Force pushed me beyond my physical and mental capabilities,” James said of his training and membership in an elite Pararescue unit. “I learned how dedication and hard work influence success on and off the battlefield, and I want to teach as many people as I can about work ethic, determination and perseverance to encourage my countrymen to build stronger communities and a stronger America.”
Having served two tours of duty, James was awarded medals for Air Force Achievement, Humanitarian Assistance and Joint Service Accommodation, as well as others for assisting mud slide victims in the Philippines, recovering the body of an F-16 pilot shot down in Iraq and carrying an injured service member to an evacuation helicopter in Afghanistan. He said serving in the military taught him two important lessons: “teamwork and a ‘never quit’ attitude.”
After returning to the United States in 2008, James was conflicted about the next chapter in his life — education. But everything changed when he stopped at a rest area in Amarillo, Texas, while driving from Florida to Arizona. There in the trash, he found a copy of Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown Jr. After taking out the book and wiping it off, the inscription he found when he opened the cover brought him to tears:
“This book is a gift to my son, Adam. It is intended to guide you on your new life as a college freshman.”
Overwhelmed by the discovery, James admitted he was unbelievably scared and sad to be pursuing his educational journey alone. But he knew the book was a sign that he should move ahead by attending college.
“As absurd as it may be, this book has essentially become my mentor,” he said.