A Perfect 10
Through life we constantly have to readjust our position, change our sights, our follow through, and our visualization of our journey. Most of the time, with the right structure, guidance, and good life choices the sights align for a perfect shot. This is the story of a boy who grew into a man full of confidence, pride, respect, an absolute love of life, and the journey that brought him where he is today.
George Norton was adopted as a baby, into what at the time, was a normal family life of both a father and mother. His father was a great man and a free spirit. His mother was focused on her career. Life changed for George when his mother and father divorced. This left him devastated and the events to follow would change his sights on life, and begin his journey.
In public school, George was bullied a lot and given his circumstances at home; he latched on to anyone and anything that could get him some attention. His search for attention led to the wrong friends, and the wrong choices. Eventually, these choices would earn him a ticket to an alternative school, where the outcome was not what his parents were looking for and other avenues had to be explored.
During that time, a coworker of his mother had a son who attended St. John’s Military School. They had conversations about his time at SJMS, and after intensive consideration, his mother decided to give it a try.
George recalls the day he arrived at St. John’s with his mother and grandfather. As they entered the main gate he read the name St. John’s Military School. The entire time his mother said they were going to St. John’s. She left off the Military School portion of the school’s name. Driving through the gate George had a feeling something was about to change.
As they entered the school, George and his grandfather watched a promo video that was being played. There were a lot of pictures of the cadets doing different activities, but one that stood out to him was the rifle team picture.
He looked at his grandfather and told him that looked cool, especially since he had only fired a BB gun and never even held a firearm.
After watching the video promo, George vividly recalls turning his six foot, four-inch body and looking down at his five foot, one-inch tall mother and seeing the pain in her eyes. At that moment, he knew he was staying at St. John’s and took his first step in the right “position.” He remembers thinking to himself, “its fight or flight, and I need to do what I have to do to make this right.”
As a SJMS cadet, George quickly learned that structure, discipline, hard work, and focus were vital to his success. He decided to soak up the opportunities and take advantage. He quickly learned the value of hard work with room inspections, physical training, marching, and study halls. The discipline and structure were hard, but again, he marched forward, doing what he needed to do.
It was shortly after graduating from New Boy training, that his roommate wanted to try out for the Rifle Team. He didn’t want to go alone so he asked George to try out. George’s roommate signed him up without letting George know about it. He became aware when his Company Commander (CO) called to inform him that he was late for tryouts. The CO was more than a little upset and let him know that when you sign up for something, you don’t dare show up late, or not at all.
When he arrived, 1SG Tony Blair asked him if he really wanted to be there, he told him he did but he had no idea what he was doing. He shot very well at the tryout. After making the team he returned to the school to call his mom and ask her for permission to try out.
After Commencement his sophomore year, he vividly recalls walking with his mother on the sidewalk near Linger Hall. She asked him if he wanted to go home and he responded, “They like me here, I am at home.”
In the years to follow, George would become a battalion staff officer and captain of the rifle team. George helped lead the Muleskinners to two league victories, and earning many individual medals along the way. He also represented the State of Kansas, competing in the National Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio, as a member of the KSRA Junior Shooting Team.
Upon graduating from St. John’s he went to college at the University of Missouri where he joined the rifle team. There he set the school record for marksmanship and became the 2003 NCAA Sectional Champion. In 2005 George enlisted in the U.S. Army. After completing One Station Unit Training, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, and the International Rifle section as a competitive shooter and instructor. George also gives 1SG Blair credit for his success as an instructor and believes because of his time with Blair on the rifle team, and the quality of instruction he received, he gained the proper tools to be a successful coach.
As he reflects on all that he has accomplished along this journey, George attributes most of this success to taking advantage of the opportunities given to him while attending St. John’s. “Even parents can learn from having their son attend,” he said. “The sacrifice of their time with their child in exchange of the St. John’s staff using 128 years of tried and true methods is like giving them a pot of gold for free.”
He learned from 1SG Blair that accomplishments aren’t for the glory or the bragging rights. His accomplishments were for the betterment of the team, the school, and his cadet brothers. Norton explained that “you always have a ‘battle buddy’ at St. John’s. You rely upon the Corps, and other people rely upon you, which was something I was not used to. I loved that I had ‘little brothers’ to care for and appreciated that they looked up to me.”
George is also grateful for the St. John’s Mom/Dad program. As a new cadet at SJMS, each cadet is assigned a Mom/Dad. The cadets are adopted by willing participants who commit to provide emotional support and mentoring to cadets. George’s St. John’s mom, MSG Paula Lambert, gave him a mother-son relationship that would last a lifetime. He speaks of Paula and her husband Jack as if they are his biological parents. Jack picked George up every Sunday for church, and always inquired about his behavior that week and offered fatherly advice.
In 2013 SSG George Norton was inducted into the St. John’s Military School Wall of Fame. George said he remembered how as a cadet, he would look at the pictures of all the Wall of Famers before school started and think how cool it would be to be on the wall. He hoped he would be an Olympic medalist before induction but accepted the honor regardless. “It was like the seam that tied my journey together,” he said.
The sight was aligned, perfect position, and perfect follow through– a perfect 10.
One could make the argument that George was lucky. Some say he worked hard to achieve greatness. In the grand scheme of things, George knows without a doubt, that his journey at St. John’s helped mold him and shape his future. George was asked what he would say to parents with a son going down the same path he was when he arrived. His response, “If you personally feel there is something missing in helping mold your son into a better man, he belongs at SJMS. Every fundamental of a family relationship can be found there, a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, everywhere you go, someone is there for you, caring for you and your success.”
George admits that not a week goes by that he does not think of St. John’s. As a rifle instructor, he is constantly dealing with children and their attitudes. His St. John’s experience forms the manner in which he deals with these young people. He also wants to relay this message;
“It may not be the day, or a week, or a year or years after you graduate, but at some point you realize, WOW! St. John’s is so important. It becomes an emotional thing, and you step off your pedestal, and give great thanks that if it weren’t for this school, I could possibly not even be alive. Even though my love for St. John’s didn’t ignite until after he joined the Army, I think about it all the time”.
SSG George Norton is currently married to his lovely wife Elizabeth, and is stationed at Ft. Benning Georgia, in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. SSG Norton recently placed 11th overall in the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup USA in the Men’s Air Rifle competition. He represents St. John’s Military School with pride placing his Old Boy Shield on his cheek plate. He has received distinguished awards and continues to represent SJMS with great honor in all he does in his life. It is young men like this, who take the fruit of what is given them at St. John’s and makes the most of it. Never giving up, always going for it, readjusting, aligning, and following through, shooting a perfect 10.
The latest on George and the 2016 Olympic trials follow the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Facebook page here.
For more information about George and his participation at the World Cup click here