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Nine heading to military academies
'Amazing amount of competition' for spots
Service WEB 1
Nick Satriano, left, congratulates John Lake on his appointment to West Point military academy during an event recognizing appointees from Forsyth County schools at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Forsyth County 2012 U.S. service academy nominations

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall’s appointees:

• Benjamin Morris, 2008 South Forsyth High graduate and attended New Mexico Military Institute, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

• Brooke Wheeler, 2011 Lambert High graduate and attended Northwestern Prep School, U.S. Air Force Academy

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves’ appointees:

• Christopher Bier, 2012 Forsyth Central High graduate, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

• Joshua Moore, 2012 North Forsyth High graduate, U.S. Naval Academy

• Brody Oakes, 2012 North Forsyth High graduate, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

• Andrew Kane, 2012 Forsyth Central graduate, West Point

• Christopher Miles, 2012 Lambert High graduate, U.S. Naval Academy

• Erik Hegeman, 2012 Pinecrest Academy graduate, West Point

• John Lake, 2011 West Forsyth graduate and attended University of Alabama, West Point

Source: Ken Konstanzer, nominations committee

A total of nine Forsyth County students will soon begin their first year at United States military academies.

Seven of them received a nomination from U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes all of Forsyth County.

The two others were nominated by District 7 U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, whose district includes a portion of south Forsyth.

“When you think about it from our district, there was an amazing amount of competition for the slots that you have been selected for,” Graves told his nominees during a reent reception at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center. “And you are the best of the best from the 9th Congressional District.”

Ken Konstanzer, a West Point graduate who serves on the service academy nominations committee, said it is rare for nine students from a county the size of Forsyth to receive so many nominations.

“It’s probably about 7 percent of the state, because it’s nine out of 146 [nominees], and so it’s a pretty decent showing,” he said. “In Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett, you’ll probably find big numbers, but you also have a lot more than five [public high] schools.

“I would venture to say that we have more than our fair share for the populous of the county.”

All of Forsyth’s public high schools, along with private school Pinecrest Academy, have representatives going to the academies, which include West Point, U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Konstanzer said the academies have gained popularity in recent years due to increased national media attention.

“The reason it’s so competitive is because Business Week, Forbes, Newsweek have all written articles in the last four years telling how great the academies are,” he said. “And the economy makes parents realize how valuable the academy experience is.”

Konstanzer noted that with academies and other experiences, a service academy education can be worth more than $400,000.

During Saturday’s event, Graves encouraged the nominees to stay dedicated to their schools even during tough times.

“The next couple of weeks for these young men is going to be difficult,” he said. “We may be smiling at these tables and in the pictures today, but I imagine in the next four or five weeks, the expressions will change a little bit.

“But it’s that determination that’s going to be required and that’s expected, quite frankly, from this great nation. You’ve been selected in this role for a purpose and that is to prepare and protect the greatest nation ever to exist on the globe, and that’s a mighty task that is laid before you.”

Harold Earls, a 2011 graduate of West Forsyth High who just completed his first year at West Point, also addressed the nominees.

Earls told them they would face many challenges as they begin, but those challenges will be rewarding.

“With those struggles, one, you make a lot of close friends because you’re going through those struggles with the same people and it means a lot,” he said. “Also, I think when you go through those struggles you mature a lot. It makes you grow up.”

John Lake, another 2011 West graduate who attended the University of Alabama for a year before deciding to seek a West Point nomination, said Earls’ words were comforting.

“Just knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it will be difficult, but if you keep pushing through you’ll make it mean a lot,” he said.

Michael Hegeman, a parent of one of the nominees, thanked Graves for holding the event, which also offered some advice from two service academy parents.

Hegeman’s son, Erik, a 2012 Pinecrest graduate, also will attend West Point.

“The parents get together because it takes that support mechanism, because once your kid is off to the academy, the communication is limited,” Hegeman said. “You know they’re safe. You know they’re doing well, but the communication is not frequent. It’s not like driving to [the University of] Georgia in two hours and saying, ‘Hey, how you doing, kid.’ You don’t have that opportunity.”