Chicagoan graduates from Naval Academy, looks ahead towards sea duty

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A young Chicago man who grew up on the South Side graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy Friday. It was a star-studded, pre-recorded virtual graduation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For me personally, it took a long time to get to the finish line. However, making it to the finish line is the ultimate satisfaction," said ENS Greg Holmes, a graduate of the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville.

For Holmes, who was raised in the Ashburn neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, becoming a naval officer is an academic and military milestone.

He said he pushed through difficult times, and shared advice for other young people facing challenges.

"Definitely stay motivated, have a goal in mind, never stop working to try and accomplish that goal," he said.

The Navy ensign and other midshipmen had social-distancing graduation ceremonies spread out over several days. The various commissioning were then edited into one virtual graduation ceremony that streamed on-line Friday.

"It definitely feels surreal right now, considering it wasn't a traditional graduation experience and everything," Holmes said.

The graduation included short, recorded messages from Hollywood actors, like Tom Cruise and Bradley Cooper, to famous athletes, like Drew Brees, JJ Watt, and David Robinson.

"It means so much to me and my family that you've dedicated your life to serving our country," Cooper said.

He is now headed onboard the USS Spruance in San Diego. He knows the challenges COVID-19 has been on some Navy ships.

"I'm hoping that these next couple of months it will die down by the time we get there. If not, we'll follow whatever procedures are they have in place," Holmes said.

Greg is grateful his parents have supported him along the way, even sending encouraging letters during the difficult times.

"Just to see this moment come for him. I'm so happy for him. Words can't describe how I feel right now," said Shirley Holmes, Greg's mother.

"I am thankful to them and everything they've done for me," he said.

Greg is the youngest of four children. Two of his three sisters are also in the military, serving in Germany and Alaska.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, graduation was not a family affair, but it was still special.

"As long as you keep a head on your shoulders, know what it is what you want to do, and never stop working to accomplish that, then you will ultimately make it no matter what it is you want to do," Holmes said.

A young man from the South Side making his family and Chicago Proud.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.