Before age four, Johnny Pershing saw his father risk his life against Confederate raiders. The boy grew up amid “life’s realities.” The family store went broke. Pershing’s father was forced to travel for work leaving a teenaged John behind who toiled three years on his family’s failing farm. Pershing decided success would depend on his own efforts. He taught school, until he heard of a life-changing chance to enter the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.