The cafeteria at North Forsyth High School was the site of a special military ceremony Friday night as Rachel Maxine Abernathy was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Abernathy, 23, was joined by her twin sisters, Sarah and Katherine Bergstrom, who are also North graduates.
The twins are midshipmen first class at the U.S. Naval Academy. Like their older sister, they will be commissioned as second lieutenants following their graduation in May.
All three sisters participated in North's JROTC program, which is led by retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jack "Gunny" Snook and Maj. Charles "Mac" Kelly Jr.
"We can't deny that the JROTC program influenced all of us," Katherine Bergstrom said. "Rachel was intrigued by the challenge of becoming a Marine and Sarah and I were motivated to seek appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy."
Abernathy spoke fondly of her first instructors.
"Gunnery Sgt. Snook and Maj. Kelly were the first Marines I ever came to know and they have been my role models throughout this whole time, throughout high school and through my training in the Marine Corps," she said.
She thanked those who joined her at the ceremony, including her drill instructor from boot camp, members of the Women Marines Association, family and friends.
"Everyone here has made some kind of impact on my life, on helping me get to this point," she said.
Abernathy said she chose to have the ceremony at her alma mater because that is where she first learned about the Marines.
Kelly was Abernathy's commissioning officer Friday night. The senior Marine instructor at North, he recalled Abernathy's toughness in high school.
"When Rachel was with us, she had a nickname of Beast," Kelly said. "She made young high school males tremble at the thought of playing soccer with us. She was totally indiscriminate in the way she would knock anyone down and laugh, myself included."
He said he was honored when Abernathy asked him to swear her in.
"I can't imagine a larger honor," Kelly said. "She's a very fine young lady, been a very fine (non-commissioned officer) and I think the Marine Corps is getting one heck of an officer."
Kelly explained that as a commissioned officer, Abernathy will be given the ability to command and will start with a platoon of her own.
Abernathy, who has served in Iraq, has a degree in criminal justice from Columbus State University and graduated last summer from officer candidate school in Quantico, Va., in the top 10 percent of her class.
Her parents, Craig and Susan Bergstrom of Cumming, 12-year-old sister Leah Bergstrom and her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. William S. Abernathy Jr., also attended the ceremony.