Anthony Edwards / Staff Photos
More than two dozen Vermont students, nominated to attend U.S. service academies, attend a recognition ceremony with their families Saturday in the Cedar Room at the State House in Montpelier. Top left: Sen. Bernard Sanders praises the students during the ceremony. Top right: Benjamin Starer of Castleton stands for a photo with Vermont’s congressional delegation.
MONTPELIER — Citing their bravery and commitment to country, Vermont’s congressional delegation on Saturday celebrated 27 Vermont high school students they have nominated for coveted positions at the nation’s service academies.
The nominees include students from Rutland High School, Mill River Union High School, Fair Haven Union High School, Burr and Burton Academy and Vermont Academy.
The students have received one or more nominations from Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernard Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch to the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Candidates must be officially nominated by an authorized nominating person to compete for admission to the academies, and most are nominated by a member of Congress — their U.S. representative or one of their U.S. senators. The students are expected to learn early next year if they have been accepted by the academies to which they’ve applied.
Securing a nomination is an honor already, however.
At the ceremony Saturday at the State House in Montpelier, Welch noted that the students have already shown leadership skills and academic achievement.
“You have lived a life that is already punctuated with significant accomplishment and dedication to your fellow Vermonters and to your fellow Americans,” Welch said. “So, I salute you and wish each of you the best of luck.”
He also recognized the work of parents in helping their students succeed early in life.
“You must be relieved,” Welch said. “You’ve got kids that have done really great in high school with a lot of ambition and a desire to serve and have gone through this gauntlet to get nominations to these academies. All of us who are parents know that getting to here from there was not necessarily a totally smooth journey.”
Sanders, meanwhile, praised the nominees for their “noble choice” to serve and “for their willingness to do something that in some ways is becoming out of fashion in America.”
“In some ways we have become a culture where it’s all about ‘me’,” he said. “‘I’ve got to make as much money as I can and to heck with everybody else.’ The young people in this room have made a very, very different decision for their lives.”
He added, “They have made a decision that they are prepared to put their lives on the line in the future, that they are prepared to undergo very, very rigorous academic and physical efforts in order to serve their country.”
Leahy, whose office organized Saturday’s ceremony, said he was impressed with each of the students after reviewing their backgrounds.
“Wouldn’t the country be better if every single one of you could join our various military academies?” Leahy said.
He noted the abundance of Vermonters serving in the military that he has encountered in his travels.
“I’m always so proud to see Vermonters who have done so well and to see so many of them who have done the various academies. So, I’m proud of you. I wish you all very well,” Leahy said.
“At a time when people seem to be thinking only of themselves, isn’t it wonderful to have people think of the country first and think of their community first, and how much better off this country would be if everybody would do that?”
John Basa of Montpelier received nominations to the U.S. Military, Naval and Air Force academies. He is hoping to attend West Point.
“I thought it was a way to make myself unique,” Basa said. “It’s just a way to make myself something special.”
Basa said the process of being nominated was “like applying to college.” He said he filed forms, wrote an essay and gathered letters of recommendation.
Vermont nominees to service academy classes of 2018:
Brian Bardin of Middletown, Mill River Union High School
John Basa of Montpelier, Montpelier High School
Alexander Benckert of St. Albans, Bellows Free Academy
Connor Brown of Springfield, Vermont Academy
Joshua Cann of Jericho, Mount Mansfield Union High School
William Colomb of Williston, Champlain Valley Union High School
Cory Cudney of Norwich, Hanover High School
John Dabagian of Milton, Milton High School
Haley Drury of Essex, Essex High School
John Dwyer of Shelburne, South Burlington High School
Jacques Fordy of Norwich, Hanover High School
Bethany Forte of Clifton, VA, Centreville High School
Russell Owen Fox of Hinesburg, Champlain Valley Union High School
Owen Hudson of Williston, Champlain Valley Union High School
Jordan Isham of Colchester, Colchester High School
Austin Kemper of South Londonderry, Burr and Burton High School
Carl Kolon of Underhill, Harrow International School, Beijing, China
David Koonz of Middlesex, U-32 High School
Grady McIntyre of Bomoseen, Fair Haven Union High School
David Sargent of Chittenden, Homeschool
Alex Schirling of Burlington, Burlington High School
Claire M. Schmelzenbach of Wallingford, Mount St. Joseph Academy
Hudson Seman of Essex Junction, Essex High School
Dylan Shattuck of St. Albans, St. Johnsbury Academy
Benjamin Ayers Starer of Castleton, Rutland High School
Glade Taylor of Essex, Essex High School
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