Jacob Perry of Canal Winchester has wanted to be a U.S. Marine since he was in elementary school.

Jacob Perry of Canal Winchester has wanted to be a U.S. Marine since he was in elementary school.

While many students change their minds several times before deciding what to do when they grow up, Perry has remained focused on that goal.

The Canal Winchester High School senior is so centered on deploying July 14 that he took part in Apex Learning, an online learning program at the high school, to help him complete the requirements for early graduation.

Since Perry only needed three courses -- mathematics, English and economics -- to finish high school, he worked hard to complete his mission to graduate early in December so that he could devote his attention to his military career and family, which includes his parents, Jennings and Kelly Perry, and his sister, Courtney, a junior at the high school.

"My job in the Marine Corps is extremely difficult, so I wanted more time to focus on Marine Corps knowledge and spend more time with my family before I leave," he said.

Perry is going into recognizance as a member of the Marines' special operations-capable unit.

Already, the 18-year-old has had to pass a battery of tests.

Perry, who ran high school cross country, is a state lifeguard champion and CPR instructor. He knows he has to be in top form mentally and physically to not only make it through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and infantry school at Camp Geiger, N.C., but also more than two years of rigorous schooling in California.

To prepare, Perry has been swimming, running, doing strength conditioning and studying for about two years.

"The biggest challenge really is keeping yourself focused and on the path to do the right things -- keeping your goals ahead of you," he said. "It's really important because a lot of things can sidetrack you."

For the first part of his military journey, Perry will be joined by his cousin, Caleb Mattox, a Canal Winchester senior who attends Eastland Career Center.

Mattox, who is going to tank school, enlisted a month after Perry as part of the Marines' buddy program.

The cousins are following in the combat boots of Perry's father, Jennings, and his maternal grandfather, the late David Mattox.

"I am proud of him," Jennings Perry said of his son. "A lot of children today his age aren't really focused on post-high school and haven't really decided what they wanted to become in life.

"For him to have such a dedicated direction of what he wants to do ... he's always been that way. When he sets a goal for himself, he's really focused on achieving whatever goal that he has set for himself."

Even though Jennings Perry served in the military, he said he is still concerned for his son, who he described as a humble young man.

"My worry is not so much for his safety -- although I do worry about that. It is that he is able to fulfill his dreams, the goals that he has set for himself, and become the things he wants to become," Jennings Perry said.

"That's what you hope for any of your kids, is that they reach their potential," he added.

Canal Winchester High School Principal Kirk Henderson said he, too, is proud of Perry and is confident he will reach his goals.

"He had a goal, set his mind to accomplishing that goal and has made that goal a reality. I have no doubt that with this type of mindset, the Marine Corps is getting themselves one heck of a Marine," Henderson said.