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Academy Candidates Feted By Congressman

Students headed for West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs given sendoff by McKeon.


Several 2008 graduates have stars and stripes in their future plans and got a little help from Congressman Buck McKeon with their college admissions.


Receiving appointments to the Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs and the Naval Academy at Annapolis are 10 young men and women, who were feted by McKeon at a luncheon Saturday afternoon.

West Point Cadet Ryan Van Wie and Congressman Buck McKeon



Scheduled to attend West Point are Deanna Clegg from Canyon High and two Saugus High graduates, Cameron Martin and Andrew Winsick.


Headed for the Naval Academy are Joseph Jamochian of Hart High and Lance La Flamme from Saugus.


The largest group has wings on their agenda, as five young men are Colorado Springs-bound, including Nicholas Jurado and Austin Wallerstein of Canyon High; Michael O’Kelley of Cornerstone Christian School, Andrew Risse of West Ranch and Brendan Taylor of Hart.

The event was a reunion for Valencia High 2006 grads Joe Perez, here with Van Wie



Students hoping to attend a service academy must meet strict eligibility requirements. They must be at least 17 years old, but not have passed their 23rd birthday; they must be a U.S. citizen, be unmarried, not pregnant and have no legal obligation to support children or other dependents.


McKeon also considers an applicant’s academic record, extracurricular and athletic activities, physical aptitude, college entrance exam scores, leadership ability and medical qualifications.

Dr. Clyde Smyth, who retired this year from Buck’s office, was also recognized for his contributions to the academy program.



Part of the purpose of the luncheon is to give applicants a taste of what life at the service academies will be like. Candidates currently attending academies make themselves available to talk with the “new recruits.” The same candidates visit high schools to talk with interested students.


Twenty-year old Ryan Van Wie just completed his second year at West Point. He says that the event of Sept. 11, 2001 had a profound effect on him and solidified his decision to pursue a military career.


“I love the people and the camaraderie,” he said, during a recent stop at KHTS. “I enjoy the discipline and feeling like part of an organization.” Asked if there was anything he intensely disliked, he admitted marching and drill were near the top of that list.


A 2005 graduate of Valencia High School, Van Wie was a long-distance runner on the schools cross country and track teams. He has continued those athletic interests at West Point, participating in the biathlon and on the Sandhurst team, a decathlon-like event involving shooting, grenade throwing and first aid.


Van Wie said that his worst day at West Point is still vivid.


“Reception Day was the absolute worst,” he said. “You have to get up early and everybody was in the Eisenhower Auditorium (at the school). You have 30 seconds to say goodbye to your parents. It was a blur after the cadet sergeants started yelling.”


Fortunately his best day isn’t too far off of memory and involved sports.

“In the Sandhurst competition, we were the third place brigade out of 40 teams.”


Now that he’s no longer a freshman, Van Wie won’t have to rise before the sun to deliver newspapers or clean up trash. The normal day begins at 6:20, with breakfast at 6:55. First class is at 7:30 and each class lasts 50 minutes.


Classes go across the board academically, including physiology, chemistry, math, English, international relations, history and science. Daily sports commence at 4, with dinner from 6 to 7, followed by 6 hours of homework crammed into 5 hours.


“It’s mandatory lights out at midnight,” he noted. “You learn to prioritize really quickly.”


Beyond telling them what to expect – not much social life at first, no electives until junior year – Van Wie has a message for the candidates that runs red, white and blue.


“We need to make sacrifices for the freedoms we are given,” he said. “Putting on a uniform is one way we can protect the Constitution and work to make this country great.”


Academy Candidates Feted By Congressman

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