After he graduated from Gobles with honors in 1998, Highley embarked on a journey that would land him on the football team for the United States Air Force Academy, and in the cockpit as a commercial pilot for Delta Airlines.
His first stop was the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado – a highly prestigious and academically rigorous military institute which graduates its cadets as military officers.
Highley’s decision to attend the academy ultimately stemmed from his passion for football and his dreams of flying. When they offered him a position as outside linebacker, he knew that was the place he would call home for the next four years.
Highley played with the Air Force football team for three years before an injury left him unable to play during his senior year. Still a part of the team, Highley traveled with his teammates to Washington D.C. where they received the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, and met with President George W. Bush.
During the deployments Highley flew missions to Iraq, Afghanistan and the horn of Africa, as he explained, “dropping the 3 B’s: Beans, Bullets, and Boots.”
The pilot also flew on several special operations missions with Navy Seal teams and Army Green Beret troops.
“At one point in my military career, I had to pinch myself to realize what I was actually doing. It was a very unique and cool experience to be able to actually see the effects on the world.”
After 14 years, Highley, now a Major, discharged from Active Duty and transferred to the Air National Guard. As a part of his full-time job, he flies commercial planes, on domestic and international flights, with Delta Airlines based in North Carolina.
“It’s a sickness. I just love being up in the sky. Every place you go is different, you always learn something new, and I hope that never stops,” he said.
Highley said his biggest supporters have always been his parents John and Linda Highley, his sisters, Jaime and Lindsay, his wife, Haley, and their two children Jonathan and Leighton. Major Highley’s father, John Highley, served as Treasurer for several years on the Gobles Public Schools Board of Education.
The Gobles graduate credits his teachers and coaches at Gobles Public Schools with helping him to develop the hard work and never-give-up mentalities that prepared him to be successful at the Air Force Academy, and throughout his careers. The pilot expressed gratitude for the people and community members who pushed him when he was younger.
“You want to do well for these people who put in so much time and effort into developing you as a person,” said Highely. “You don’t want to let these people down.