Perspective: Military academy applicants offer bright future

Of all the duties I am privileged to perform as your representative in Congress, one of the most inspiring is having five 3rd District residents serving on the nomination board that helps me decide which young people from our district should earn nominations for spots at our four armed service academies.

Since 2009, I have nominated a total of 61 young people to attend West Point in New York on behalf of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and the Merchant Marine Academy in New York. Before they can be nominated, our community panel conducts face-to-face interviews with these fine young folks who wish to serve their country as commissioned officers. Members of Congress do not nominate those who apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Our most recent panel met in Jefferson City the first Saturday in January and we had some outstanding young people seeking a nomination. After hearing from the board about those seeking nominations, I was reminded why I am so hopeful about the future of our military and the people who will become our future leaders. There is a level of confidence, dedication and hard work that came from each of those who clearly were prepared to make the unique sacrifices it takes to be commissioned officers in the best trained and best equipped military in the world.

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with attending one of our military academies. There is a level of expectation and behavior that exceeds most other institutions of higher learning simply because of the unique missions of the academies. Not only are cadets required to maintain rigorous academic schedules but also have the added duty of learning the particular traditions and missions of their respective branch of service.

While clearly these special young people must have the physical stamina to succeed as a member of the military, they must also have the mental toughness as well. I have often heard that military academy training is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental and I would agree. Oftentimes, these academy graduates will at some point in their military career have to make split-second decisions that in some cases could be life and death decisions and it takes strong moral character, stellar training and a disciplined mind to do that. And even after their military careers, many of these graduates will take the lessons they learned to help improve their communities.

The level of candidates for academy nominations seem to get more impressive with each passing year and it is always tough for our community panel to make final recommendations. I am very proud and very thankful for the work that this group does in helping me decide on a final nominating list and would like to recognize them: Washington Missourian Publisher Bill Miller Sr.; Sheldon Hartsfield, a safety director and retired military; Adam Gresham, a state employee and U.S. Naval Academy graduate; Matt West, on-air host at KJFF radio in Festus; and Julie Boeckmann, a communications specialist at the Missouri Department of Education.

With the panel’s work done for another year; my office will start over again in April by announcing the nomination process for the academy classes of 2019. Until then, more information can be found on my website at As always, we will reach out to schools and use social media and the traditional media to spread the word about the nominating process. I look forward to getting another opportunity to meet these young people face-to-face as they seek the honor of attending one of our military academies and serving a grateful nation.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the state’s 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 573-635-7232.

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