ACADEMY BOUND: Local military academy appointees, from left, Arthur & Mark Wicke, Patrick Crowley, Travis Chandler Lee, Kyle Chiang, Sydney Ann Fortson, Patrick Sterba & Olivia Harrigian; with San Marino Rotary Salute to the U.S. Service Academies program Co-chairs Bill Payne & Aaron Gil, Lynne Eodice Photos

ACADEMY BOUND: Local military academy appointees, from left, Arthur & Mark Wicke, Patrick Crowley, Travis Chandler Lee, Kyle Chiang, Sydney Ann Fortson, Patrick Sterba & Olivia Harrigian; with San Marino Rotary Salute to the U.S. Service Academies program Co-chairs Bill Payne & Aaron Gil, Lynne Eodice Photos

The Rotary Club of San Marino recognized eight local high school students who recently became military academy appointees.

United States Congresswoman Judy Chu personally commended the young adults at the Rotary’s 12th annual Salute to the Appointees to the U.S. Service Academies on June 2. She also thanked San Marino Rotary for putting on the event every year.

“I’ve been a member of Congress now for seven years,” Chu said. “Out of all the cities that I have, this is the only one that has a Rotary club that puts on an event for the service academy appointees. So isn’t the San Marino Rotary Club amazing?”

All of the students were part of Chu’s 27th Congressional District and the congresswoman nominated five of the eight in attendance for appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy application process doesn’t involve recommendations from congresspersons. Chu said her office had a total of 24 students apply to one or more of the service academies.

Congresswoman Judy Chu & keynote speaker Nick Gantt
“Each student had a great set of skills,” she said. “At the end of the day, I had the privilege of providing nominations to the most highly qualified candidates. I am thrilled to say that nine of these candidates from my Congressional District were offered and accepted appointments to the service academies.”

All of the accepted military academy appointees within the 27th Congressional District, their families and friends were invited to the Salute to the Appointees program.

Chu expressed appreciation to the parents of the service academy appointees for helping the students achieve their dreams.

“It’s so important that we recognize these young people and give them as much encouragement as possible,” she said, also adding that the students have a distinct honor in attending one of the academies.

Chu continued, “In doing so, you commit yourself to the highest standard of academic and physical excellence. You commit yourself to serve the United States of America and you do it as a leader of outstanding character. At each academy, you’ll face challenges in the classroom and in the field. Your idea of success will be tested. You will be pushed to your limit. Once you’ve graduated, you will have gained incredible skills and experiences that will help you for years to come¬—both in the military and at home. Congratulations to all of you for this amazing accomplishment. I look forward to seeing what great things all of you will do in the future.”

She presented Certificates of Congressional Recognition to all of the students.

Four recent San Marino High School graduates—Olivia Harrigian, Patrick Crowley and twin brothers Arthur and Mark Wicke—were among those honored at the ceremony.

Olivia will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I chose to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy because I have a passion for serving other people and I saw a great opportunity to do that there,” she said. Olivia added that it was also “hard to pass up the mountains right behind it.”

Like his brother Chip the year prior, Patrick will be going to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, explaining his decision by saying, “It’s a close-knit environment.” He said serving with his brother would be fun.

The Wicke brothers were also appointed to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

“I chose the Coast Guard Academy because of its small size,” Arthur said. “They’re also really involved in rescue missions and saving lives.”

“The humanitarian mission of the Coast Guard appealed to me,” Mark said. “I can also enroll in flight school.”

Gabrielino High School graduate Travis Chandler Lee will head to West Point. He said his uncle got him interested in the U.S. Army when he was little by telling him numerous stories. Travis said he also wanted to attend the U.S. Military Academy to honor his mother.

“She was a single mother who raised two kids and worked countless hours of overtime to make ends meet,” he said.

Don Bosco Technical Institute graduate Kyle Chiang and Claremont High School graduate Sydney Ann Fortson chose to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The reason why I chose the U.S. Naval Academy is because I was raised from a young age to help other people and to serve my country,” Kyle said, adding that he met many valuable mentors who helped steer him toward the academy.

“I chose the Naval Academy because I know it’s a place where I’ll be pushed to do great things every day and the career options after the academy are very wide,” Sydney said.

Damien High School graduate Patrick Sterba will be going to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and also was inspired by a family mentor who told him many tales of traveling with the Merchant Marines.

“I’ve always had a strong desire to travel and go on adventures, serve my country and to try to help out as many people as I can,” he said.

The 12th annual Salute to the Academy Appointees keynote speaker was U.S. Military Academy Class of 2001 graduate Nick Gantt. He provided some practical advice for the academy appointees and their families. Gantt advised the appointees to enjoy the moment.

“It’s really good to think ahead and you want to make sure that you make informed decisions about your future, but don’t let it consume you,” he said.

Gantt’s next suggestion was to get to know as many classmates as possible because they’ll be attending school will some spectacular individuals who could help them throughout their career.

Lastly, he said to make the most of the academy experience.

“I did some very cool things during my time as a cadet,” Gantt said. “I rappelled out of a helicopter. I trained with Olympic athletes. I even did an internship in Virginia where I was a tugboat platoon leader. Not many people can say that. What I regret is that I definitely could have done more.”

David Obedzinski, vice president of philanthropy for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association, also spoke.

“Today’s theme and what you’re doing to thank and honor people who are serving and who are going to serve, it meets the ‘Service Above Self’ (Rotary) motto so well,” he said. “It is just perfect for Rotary.”

Rotarians Aaron Gil and Bill Payne co-chaired the Salute to the Appointees.