RHS will send three to military academiesAdam Jackson, Bryce Wilberding and Stephen Sawyer will all attend military academies next year
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
They’re headed to different states and they will study in very different environments, but three Rosemount High School seniors expect to have a special connection for years to come thanks to the decisions they have made about life after high school.
Adam Jackson, Bryce Wilberding and Stephen Sawyer are all headed to United States military academies — Jackson to the Air Force Academy, Wilberding to West Point and Sawyer to Annapolis. It is an unusually high number for a single high school, and getting to this point was no easy task. If applying for college is stressful for the typical college student, a military academy application ratchets the intensity up a notch or two. Before they are even considered for admission, students have to get a recommendation from their member of congress. Each congressman gets 10 recommendations, and the academies pick one or two of those.
Think a college application essay is tough? How about a medical examination, a physical fitness test or a full background check?
“The fall was really stressful,” Wilberding said.
Each of the three academies accepts about 1,000 students in its freshman class.
All three students have different reasons for putting themselves through the process. Jackson and Wilberding attended a leadership academy last year at West Point, and Jackson, who has no military tradition in his family, saw people on campus that looked more like him than the students he was seeing at other schools. They were more focused. More serious.
Jackson considered applying to West Point, but the two-time state wrestling runner-up liked his wrestling opportunities better at the Air Force Academy.
Wilberding, who says his fondest memory of his grandfather is sitting with him and looking at his keepsakes from World War II, was also impressed by his time at West Point.
“By the end of the week, I realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else for college,” he said.
Sawyer is the only one of the three with a direct connection to a military academy. His father attended the Naval Academy, but Sawyer said he never felt pressured to apply.
Jackson, because of his wrestling, probably had the most direct route to the academy. Sawyer had already made peace with his second option — a ROTC scholarship at the University of Michigan — when he got his acceptance letter. Wilberding’s came after that.
It’s no small decision to attend a military academy, and all three students expect they will figure that out quickly. While most high school graduates have three months to prepare for college, Jackson, Wilberding and Sawyer will all report to school at the end of June for a period of intense physical training. All three have been working out so they’ll be as prepared as possible.
“Our summer consists of a month of going to graduation parties,” Sawyer said. “It’s really condensed.”
There will be rules and regulations their friends won’t have at other schools, and there will be years of service after graduation. But none of the three seems concerned about that. They’re looking forward to getting started.
“I feel like I’m ready to get going,” Wilberding said. “Right now I’m ready, but I know when it comes my heart will be in my throat.”
None of the three knows how long he will serve once his commitment is over. Wilberding expects to stay in the Army as long as he is enjoying himself, but for now at least he feels like the job is a perfect fit for him.
All three had other opportunities. It was something else that drove them to the military: a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves.
“We could have gone to good colleges. We could have gotten good jobs and done really well,” Sawyer said. “We can still do all those things, but at the same time we’re one more cog in a big wheel.”
In theory, Wilberding and Sawyer should be rivals now. They will be when they see each other at the annual Army-Navy football game, and they got a taste at a recent RHS military recognition ceremony of the rivalry that awaits them. But all three also feel like the experience they have ahead of them will bring them closer.
“I feel like we’re going to have a real special bond,” Sawyer said.