LaPlace native graduates from West Point

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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WEST POINT, N.Y. — LaPlace native James Perilloux has something in common with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley and other historic leaders— he’s a graduate of the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point.

Perilloux, a 2017 graduate of Riverside Academy, has always been interested in history and the stories of veterans. He spent his summers volunteering at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve, and he was enchanted by Mr. O’Neil Boe’s recollections of serving as a paratrooper in World War II. From a young age, he was determined to follow the same path.

“I thought, if all of these historical figures that we hold up on a pedestal for being these wonderful generals went to West Point, what’s stopping me from going to that institution? I devoted everything into doing what I could do to get in,” Perilloux said.

Second Lieutenant Perilloux was recognized by the St. John Parish Council last month for being part of West Point’s Class of 2021.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard introduced him as the son of LaPlace’s very own Tracy and Felix Perilloux.

“This has been a remarkable journey for you and for your parents and for those of us who have watched you grow over the years,” Hotard said. “I remember asking James when he said he was going to West Point what was a second option and he said, no, I’m going to West Point. Here you are as a graduate. You don’t see that much. It speaks volumes to who you are and who your parents are. Thank you for your dedication and service to our country.”

Councilman at-large Lennix Madere said, “From an early age, you knew what you wanted to do. You were set on that goal of going to the academy, and it takes a certain type of person to go through all the training, rules and regulations they have. It’s not like a regular college.”

Councilman Tom Malik noted that this accomplishment is one the community can be proud of, and that there is “something very special” about the career path he’s chosen.

According to admissions data, West Point’s acceptance rate is around 10%, making it one of the most selective institutions in the country.

The rigorous coursework was an adjustment for Perilloux. He was used to being at the top of his class and had graduated from Riverside Academy as the valedictorian. Despite going into school with expectations of earning straight ‘A’s, he found himself face-to-face with a C-plus in one of his first science classes.

“I remember that being such a humbling experience. Going from the top to being average made me realize that if I wanted to earn things in life, I had to work for it,” Perilloux said. “That set in motion that drive, that work ethic that I needed to succeed at West Point.”

West Point gave Perilloux the skills necessary to bounce back from failure. Those lessons came to the forefront in his second year during the sling load phase of air assault training. While connecting cargo loads to helicopters, Perilloux was tasked with inspecting the cargo and pointing out three deficiencies in two minutes.

Perilloux ended up failing the sling load phase on his first attempt. Instead of letting the failure define him, he let it inspire him to work harder.

Attending West Point forced Perilloux to come out of his shell and ultimately become a stronger leader. During his last semester, he led more than 120 people every day as a company director.

“West Point brought out my ability to interact with people in a way I had never done before,” Perilloux said. “Being able to get up in front of 120 people would have been almost impossible for me five years ago. I got to a point where I was comfortable doing it and enjoyed it.”

The end of one chapter marks the beginning of another. Perilloux recently married his high school sweetheart, Mackenzie, who has remained faithfully by his side through several years of long distance.

The newlyweds moved to Georgia late last week for the next step of Perilloux’s journey. He will be attending Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course for the next six months. Upon completion, he will be qualified for the Infantry Branch of the Army, but Perilloux’s education doesn’t end there.

After a month of Airborne School and two months of Ranger School, Perilloux will report to Fort Richardson in Alaska to live out his dreams.

Perilloux sets an example for young people, letting them know their dreams aren’t out of reach.

“If you really work hard and put your mind to it and you really strive to earn a place there, you can do it,” Perilloux said. “I’m a homegrown Louisiana guy from LaPlace. I’ve lived here my own life; my family has been here since 1750. I think it’s time for me to set out to make an impact on the world and show my community what I can do.”