They came from different schools and backgrounds, but five recent graduates were honored Saturday not for the schools from which they came, but rather those to which they are going.
The students attended a luncheon hosted by District 14 state Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who nominated them for enrollment to service academies. The nominations were made when Graves was still representing the 9thcongressional district.
“You are representing the 9thcongressional district ... to defend and protect our nation. “There is no greater joy in my job than being able to make the phone call ... to let you know you got into an academy.
“That’s what makes it worth everything.”
Kaylyn Young, a South Forsyth High School graduate, said getting the phone call confirming her Naval Academy acceptance was “the most incredible experience I’ve had so far.”
“I really wanted to do something that would impact more people than just myself,” she said after the event, held at the Forsyth Conference Center.
For Christopher Grove, completing his first year in ROTC at North Forsyth High School, “solidified that I was going to join.”
Samantha Pankow, also a North High graduate, said her desire to serve “is a weird and long story.”
But her decision was solidified at a summer seminar last year.
“I’ve always loved to work out and focus on school,” she said, adding the academy would be a perfect marriage of her two passions. “They make sure that you have a structure.”
During Saturday’s reception, the students and their families heard from Col. Kevin Jarrard, who talked to them about the importance of the commitment they’ve made to serve.
The most useful weapon, Jarrard said, “is your brain, and those that you will lead will expect you to employ your brain.”
“You will be our nation’s leaders far into the future,” he said. “Spend our blood and our treasure wisely as you lead our young people.”
Capt. Peter Morrissey, who began his six-year military service at the United States Military Academy at West Point, offered some statistics on how rare it is to even be accepted.
About 15,000 applications are sent in, he said. Just 1,200 end up making it, and of those, only about 1,000 will graduate.
“On the days you’re having a good day, lend a helping hand. On the days you’re having a bad day ... there will be a hand for you,” he said. “Your individuality goes away ... but try to maintain a sense of personality.”
Tracey Bartley, who holds many titles in the congressman’s office, said her role as service academy coordinator is the most important to her.
“I feel like each of these young people are my own. I really feel connected to you,” she said during the banquet. “I respect what it takes to get to this point ... and I’m so proud of you.
“I’m so thankful to have just a very tiny part of this.”