HANFORD – When Sierra Pacific High School student Brandon Green put on the cap and gown for Thursday's graduation ceremony, he blended into the crowd of other seniors.
To the casual onlooker, he's another American teenager going through a taken-for-granted rite of passage.
Except, in Green's case, nothing has been taken for granted.
Talk to him in depth, and his tumultuous life story unfolds.
For starters, let's just say that he didn't come from a stereotypically happy family in a stereotypically pleasant Hanford neighborhood.
Green was born in prison, where his mother was incarcerated for theft.
He was sent to live with a grandmother in Porterville.
When Green was 5, his father, whom he barely knew, died in a car accident.
When Green turned 10, he went to live with an uncle in Amarillo, Texas, because his grandmother in Porterville, who was suffering from worsening symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, could no longer take care of him.
Green had a rough time of it in Amarillo.
He didn't see much of his uncle, a police officer who worked nights, and he had a bad relationship with his aunt.
Green said he spent about three quarters of his four years in Amarillo grounded and unable to leave the house.
The tense, hostile atmosphere wore him down into a state of despair.
He remembers one time in particular, when he let his bike pick up speed down a hill and let go of the handlebars, not caring what happened.
"That was one of my worst moments," he said.
After asking his uncle for help, Green, at age 14, moved to Hanford to live with Trena Belk, his aunt.
"I was insanely happy to leave Texas," he said.
The move proved to be a godsend.
His grades improved.
Green took refuge in sports. The exercise and the discipline cleared his head and give him an outlet.
It also nurtured his longstanding desire to serve in the military.
His police officer uncle in Texas, whom he admires, is a retired Army sergeant. That influenced him a lot.
But Green is also driven by an intensely personal desire to provide others with the kind of safe, protected life he hasn't had.
The challenges didn't end for Green when he came to Hanford.
His mother died when he was a freshman at Sierra Pacific. It sent him into a depressive funk that took two years to climb out of.
Still, he never lost his vision for military service.
Through the help of friends, administrators, counselors and others, not to mention the choir and music programs he's been involved in, Green climbed out of the hole.
He's acutely aware of how much support he has received, how much he needed it and how it always involved sacrifice and love on somebody's part.
It's given him a desire to do the same for others.
Green's vision is to be in a special forces para-rescue unit, meaning he would parachute into extremely dangerous situations and try to save wounded comrades.
It's just the kind of thing his life has prepared him for.
"What I have gone through has made me stronger, and it will continue to make me stronger," he said. "I want to do something difficult. I want something that will challenge my mind and body."
He's already sworn in for a six year commitment with the Air Force, with more years likely to follow.
He leaves in August for basic training in San Antonio.
Green's determination and seriousness marks him out from many of his peers, according to Helen Espinoza, a secretary at Sierra Pacific.
Green worked as a student aide in Espinoza's office. She's had a chance to get to know him a bit.
In an interview, Espinoza had nothing but good things to say about him.
"[Green] isn't afraid of anything," she said. "He's overcome a lot of things."
"He is a great kid," she added.
His aunt Trena Belk has been on Green's side from the beginning.
She's seen the struggles, and she's seen the victory.
"I think that considering everything, he's tackled everything with tenacity, with a fearlessness, with an I-can-do attitude," she said. "He's been tremendous."
"He's always just been a leader, calm in the middle of the storm," she added.