June 12, 2015

Students selected to attend military academies

by Linda KC Reynolds
staff writer
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds
Proud friends and family members take photos of Class of 2019 military academy appointees June 13 at the AV College Performing Arts Theatre. The appointees are pictured with John Fergione and Ellie Kay, Knight Military Academy Selection Committee members (left), and U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, (right). The Class of 2019 Knight Military Academy appointees are: U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis: Harrison Davis Hom; Amy Christine Stallard; Patrick Karl Watler and Taylor Clendenan Welker; U.S. Air Force Academy: Zachary David Norton; Benjamin Aaron Young; Anna Maria Weilbacher; Nickolas Cody Chew and Dean Everett Risse; U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School: Blake Evan Fall; U.S. Merchant Marine Academy: Logan Thomas Propst; Veronica Jane Grabiak; Kalani Cabico; Thomas Arthur Curry and Jarom Lee Sims; and U.S. Military Academy at West Point: Chloe Elizabeth Kargodorian; Hayden Andrew Cook; Olivia Anita Capasso.

Eighteen students consider themselves very fortunate to be selected by the U.S. Congressional Knight Military Academy Selection Committee and will soon pursue a four-year education and become military officers.

Representing California’s 25th District, Congressman Steve Knight along with best-selling author of “Heroes at Home,” Ellie Kay, and presenter and committee chairman, John Fergione, shook hands with “the best of the best,” during a reception to honor America’s new leaders and send them along their way with a few encouraging words by those who walked before them.

The Military Academy Selection Committee was hand-picked by Knight because of their expertise and integrity: John Fergione, Ellie Kay, Todd “Leif” Ericson, Ken Fidyk, Jennifer Riedel and Jim Webb worked together to choose  students from across District 25.

“I picked these members because I know what they are capable of. I know that the students they choose will become great leaders,” explained Knight.

Students will attend the United States Academies:  Navy, Air Force, Merchant Marine and the Army Military Academy at West Point. They will receive a full scholarship and in return, will serve at least four years in the military.

“These are the best schools in the country …  you’re going to cry, you’re going to be pushed, you’re going to do things you never thought possible and in the end,  you are going  to achieve something that is unbelievable,” said Knight.

U.S Army 2nd Lt. Alex Gaff, a 2015  Military Academy graduate, said that her father encouraged to go West Point. “When my mom and I asked what it was, we laughed.” She soon talked to a recruiter and since then, has had some of the most incredible experiences, biggest challenges, funniest and trying of times.

Gaff imagined her college experience would be like her friends; however, instead of decorating dorm rooms and going to parties, she took advantage of the countless opportunities and encouraged the new cadets to do the same.   She told students that they will live with cadets from 50 states, be taught and lead by our nation’s best leaders and mentors. They will also join clubs and teams and go on ships all over the world, study abroad and learn a new language, meet heads of states and leaders of nations. “Be patient, embrace the process, keep your goals close, and have fun.”

Affecting not only their lives but all those they interact with, retired Navy officer and Lockheed Martin test pilot, John Fergione told students to remember that winners never quit.

“Just remember when those difficult days come, and they will—winners never quit. Be a winner, and not just in the academy. It will positively affect your life forever more.”

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class Marika Nemeth reminded students they will be   little fish in a big pond. The academies are full of valedictorians, presidents of clubs and captains.

“They didn’t accept you just to put you on a pedestal to congratulate you, they accepted you to challenge you.”  When learning with the best, she reminded students to have pride, but don’t get cocky. “They will make it a point to knock you down if you get cocky, take pride and stay humble. People will respect you for it.”

Ellie Kay is considered to be America’s Military Family Expert. Married to a current test pilot and a retired Air Force fighter pilot, she is the mother of seven, with three sons on active duty. She said family support is of most importance and encourages families to let their soldiers hear and really know; “I love you, I’m proud of you and together we’re going to be all right.”

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