Roy Wood, 17
Lost his father in 2004
Army Sgt. Roy A. Wood, 47
Died Jan. 9, 2004
Roy Wood rushed into the theater tucking in a shirt that was already pretty well tucked. Even on one of the few days when students at Georgia Military College were allowed to show up in something other than a starched white shirt, striped blue pants and cadet’s epaulets, the 17-year-old with the ramrod posture constantly checked his neatness.
Roy’s dad would have loved this prep school within the 135-year-old military college in Milledgeville, Ga.: the dress code, the “Duty, Honor, Country” banners surrounding the parade ground, the discipline that led students to snap to attention and salute a passing hearse. Roy Sr. was a Special Forces lifer, who resigned his commission and left his job as an emergency room doctor to ship out to Kabul with a National Guard combat unit as a medical sergeant.
Roy Jr. is pretty sure his dad would love this theater thing, too, although it would be more of a surprise.
“He loved music, I know that,” Roy said as the director called for first positions. “He told great stories. But I don’t think he was ever a performer. Honestly, I’m not sure where this comes from.”
He reached back to his dad’s parting words to him: “While I’m gone, you’re going to have to be the man of the house.”
Wherever it came from, it came big. In ninth grade, he was recruited for the ensemble of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” By 11th grade, he won a state acting competition as the lead in “Chicago.” The yes-sir-no-sir overachiever who made honor societies from math to Spanish became the guy who busts out the raucous “Ice Ice Baby” routine at football halftime shows. He loved the applause.
Now it was time to take up a broom and rehearse “Little Shop of Horrors.” He was playing Seymour, the lead.
It took years for Roy to figure what was driving him to master one challenge after another, to play four sports, post a perfect GPA, hurl himself around the obstacle course. Then, in 10th grade, he wrote an essay about the morning when he was 6 and two Army officers knocked on the door. He recalled the look on his mother’s face before they even opened their mouths to describe the convoy accident that had killed his 47-year-old father on Jan. 9, 2004. He reached back to his dad’s parting words to him: “While I’m gone, you’re going to have to be the man of the house.”
He came to see extracurricular overkill as a bid for the approval of the father who left him in charge. That Green Beret who was so determined to deploy on operational missions that he took — and passed — an endurance course test that felled soldiers half his age.
“I just want to make my dad proud,” Roy said.
He’d arrived at campus that morning in the dawn gray, in time for the morning flag ceremony and the inspection of ninth-graders he carried out as a cadet second lieutenant. He hurried over the brick path where he and his younger sister, Caroline, 14, had written their father’s name during a Sept. 11 commemoration of the fallen.
“My dad is my hero,” Roy wrote in the college admissions essay he sent to Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford and Princeton.
Yet he wasn’t on his father’s path. Medical careers have become too unpredictable. His mother beseeched him to stay out of the military. “She says she couldn’t bear it if the same thing happened to me,” Roy explained.
And as much as he loves musical theater, he’s too practical to try to make a living from it. “I want to give my children a comfortable life,” he said. He was thinking of engineering, dentistry. Maybe law.
But for now, singing and dancing fed both artistic and competitive drives. With the state competition a week away, the cast settled in for a fifth hour of rehearsal. Roy would have a couple of hours of homework after that. He smiled at the prospect, confident that the dad who left him in charge would admire his ambition, respect his choices and let him sing.