ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WECT) – With school out, teachers are getting a much needed break before heading back to the classroom around mid-August. But for one teacher and coach, the past few days have been spent getting ready for a trip that will take him out of the classroom, and away from the football field for the next year.
Ray Swaney is getting ready to serve his country in a way he has never done before, through a military deployment. The 35-year-old joined the Reserves three years ago and is now a first Lieutenant with the Wilmington reserves unit. A few months ago, he found out he is scheduled to be deployed for one year in Afghanistan.
"Being a reservist, you look forward to having the opportunity to serve your country in an active capacity," said Swaney, Dixon High School's football coach and marine technology teacher. "But also, you realize you are going to miss family."
Left behind at home will be his wife of ten years and two small children, but he also has another family that he will be away from as well.
Around Dixon High School, Lieutenant Swaney is better known as Coach Swaney. He's been the head football coach for four seasons. Last year he took the team to its first winning season since 1983 and a trip to the state playoffs.
"The good thing is, a lot of coaches and a lot of schools are using a program called Huddle, so I will be able to go online and watch the games and things like that," explained Swaney.
Assistant Coach Brandon Iseman will handle the team while Swaney is away.
Swaney is also an important part of the school's academic team as well. The Snead's Ferry native is a graduate of Dixon High School and now teaches marine technology there.
Principal Vikki Childress said Swaney will have his teaching and coaching jobs waiting for him when he returns. She praised Swaney as an outstanding educator and leader.
"[He's] very well respected in the community," said Childress. "He is the rock of this school. He has a true pulse on what is going on. He is a great, great man."
The school honored Swaney at a pep rally during the last days of the school year. This event brought plenty of tears to the eyes of students and staff.
Swaney is leaving behind the message "to work hard for things, expect things and expect something out of yourself, so that you can achieve those goals."
School officials hope Swaney will be able to join in at their homecoming pep rally this fall, direct from Afghanistan, via Skype.
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