November is Military Family Appreciation Month, and we salute our military families who also paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Veterans Alumni Council would like to highlight the Alverson family, who are three generations of Gamecocks.
It’s a story about service to country and a family’s garnet legacy. In 1965, James (Jim) Alverson, ‘75, was a senior at Spartanburg High School when a friend invited him to “make the long trip” to Columbia to watch a football game. The Gamecocks came away with a 17-16 win, and Jim came away with a newfound love for the school he would eventually call home.
Fast forward a few years, and while away from home serving our country in the US Army, he learned that his mother had been hired as the librarian at what was then known as USC-Union. This was the sign that Jim knew he would call UofSC home. After leaving the military, he used his GI Bill benefits to pursue his degree from the Columbia campus.
While Jim’s Gamecock experience started in high school, it didn’t take long for his son, James (Jay) Alverson, ‘98.
“In August of 1975, Jay was brought home in a Gamecock outfit, and on the second Saturday in September (the 13th), Jay and I went to see the Gamecocks beat Georgia Tech 23-17,” Jim said. “He didn’t have much choice as far as which side of the fence he would sit on. When he joined the military and then later graduated from UofSC, it was one of my proudest days as a father.”
Jay said, “I don’t remember there ever being a time I wanted to go anywhere else. Maybe it’s a boy wanting to be like his father or maybe it was just in my DNA, but I never wanted to be any place but Columbia.”
While attending UofSC, Jay was able to use his military GI bill to assist with the cost of college. He was also actively involved in the Student Gamecock Club and served as president his senior year. “I had a blast during my time in Columbia,” he said. It was such a great era for the basketball program, and baseball was just starting its rise. Most importantly, we won against Clemson.”
After graduation, the military sent him to California and shortly after 9/11, Jay and his wife, Brandi, learned they would have a daughter they named Brianna.
Brianna (Bri) Alverson ‘21 was the very definition of a “military child.” Born in California, she spent most of her formative years in southeastern Virginia, then North Carolina before coming to Columbia to attend South Carolina. Bri mentioned she was never in the same school for more than three years, so she gravitated to what she knew best—family.
“My very first Gamecock memory was my dad going crazy in front of our TV and throwing me up in the air saying something about puppies being hushed,” Bri recalled. “I am a dog lover, so I wasn’t too thrilled about him being mean to puppies. Then he explained the UofSC vs UGA rivalry, so I was slightly relieved.”
It wasn’t until her freshman year in high school that she understood why 90 percent of her father’s wardrobe included a Gamecock.
“The campus is unreal,” Bri said. It’s so much more than what they show on brochures and TV. It’s so peaceful, yet exciting at the same time. It really is a special place.”
When asked what it means to be part of three generations of Gamecocks—not only attending UofSC but having the opportunity to do so because of Veterans Benefits—each member of the family had a different answer.
Jim said, “You always want more for your child than you had. It’s part of what makes the country great. It’s what those who serve fight for. To be able to say that I’m the oldest in this chain is humbling and really gives me a chance to reflect on how proud I am of my son and granddaughter.”
Jay had a slightly different take.
“It’s about legacy and cementing our name among the thousands of other family names that are on this campus and the hundreds of names on the horseshoe,” he said. “To say to my daughter that this brick is their grandfather’s, here is mine and this space is for you and your sister is something that I don’t take for granted.”
For Bri, it is more about comparing one day to the next, than feeling any type of pressure. “It’s really fun to hear and compare stories with my dad and grandfather about what the campus was like when they were here and how it’s grown and changed over the years,” she said.
The one thing that all three agree on is that Carolina will always be a home away from home. That no matter where their life takes them, the smokestack in the center of campus will be a beacon to guide them home. For these three Alversons, UofSC is more than just a school. The best way to sum it all up would be Forever Home, Forever Family…. Forever to Thee.