By:  Jessamy Brown

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly returned to his high school and gave a speech good enough to earn a gold star from his former teacher -- adding to the three already on his lapel.

O'Reilly, a 1974 graduate of Richland High School, now runs the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. On Monday, he addressed about 500 students enrolled in Advanced Placement math and science courses and members of the campus Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Joining him was U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, who taught English, journalism and yearbook at the school and taught O'Reilly as a senior. She now sits on the powerful House defense subcommittee, to which O'Reilly periodically gives classified briefings.

One day, he asked to give Granger a private briefing to re-introduce himself, and they decided to make a joint visit to their former school.

"The U.S. is slipping in our competitiveness in both math and science. You can make a difference," Granger told the students.

She quipped: "His job is also an important lesson to all of you to be nice to your teacher because you never know where it might lead."

The Missile Defense Agency uses math and science concepts, including physics equations and the laws of gravity, in its work in ballistic missile defense, O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly had a childhood dream of attending the U.S. Naval Academy but could not fulfill an appointment there because of his eyesight. But when an opening became available at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he went there.

"At that point, I decided maybe that's an opportunity. I found that the skills, the enthusiasm and hard work here at Richland really did a great job preparing me," he said. "Every time I got an education opportunity I took it."

The visit was inspirational to sophomore Floyd Tidwell, 16, a JROTC member, who told Patrick that he was a role model.

"It really touched my heart, thinking I could be that person one day," said Tidwell, who wants to attend the Naval Academy.