03JakeDeaneditOn Monday, America will pause to honor and remember the patriotic men and women who sacrificed their lives in support of our liberty.  Here in North Carolina, more than 11,000 men and women gave their lives in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  

As we remember the fallen and thank the veterans in our community, I am also humbled and grateful to meet the next generation of American heroes who are volunteering to defend America.  

So far this academic year, 17 students from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District have received prestigious appointments to West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

• Jake Dean of Waxhaw received a rare double-appointment to both West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy.  He has always dreamed of serving his country, and now he’ll face a tough choice between two outstanding opportunities.

•  Luke Johnson of Charlotte received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.  He ranks near the top of his class, displays tremendous leadership and excels in calculus.

• Caroline Horne of Weddington launched two charities, served in student government and was captain of the soccer team. This fall, she’ll be a West Point cadet.

• Erin McCullagh of Charlotte attended a U.S. Naval Academy swim camp in elementary school and never forgot their culture of respect.  She’ll join them in Annapolis this fall.

• Nick Derrico of Charlotte received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, which he’s dreamed of attending since he was nine.

• Will Kern of Waxhaw spent the past four years watching his brother face the many challenges of cadet life at the U.S. Air Force Academy and was never deterred. He now has his own appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

• Sumi Vijayakuma, a high school student from Matthews who also serves as a Physics Teaching Assistant at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, received a prestigious appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

• Coby Kurtz of Waxhaw, who founded a high school designated driver group to combat drunk driving, received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

• Sam McGee of Charlotte always felt “safe and secure thanks to the United States military” and wants to give back. He received an appointment to West Point.

• Manny Riolo of Charlotte will follow his Marine Corps grandfather, Navy grandfather and Air Force father with his appointment to the U.S. Air
Force Academy.

• Stephen Harold of Waxhaw will follow his father, brother, grandparents, uncles and aunts into a life of military service. He received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

• Coleman Johnson of Waxhaw has a life goal of doing everything within his power to preserve America for the next generation.  He received an appointment to West Point.

• Elizabeth White of Charlotte received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.  She has demonstrated a passion for helping those around her improve and succeed.

• Quinn Schneider is an Eagle Scout from Cornelius, a member of the Civil Air Patrol, and a Black Diamond-level snow skier.  He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

• Eyan Bowers of Mooresville received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.  His ambition is “to serve this country I know and love.”

• Luke Miller, a varsity wide receiver from Mooresville, has learned the importance of teamwork and hopes to apply those lessons as a military officer. He received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

• Lelyand Cathey of Matthews has persevered.  When he didn’t receive a nomination in 2016, he worked hard to further prepare himself, culminating in this year’s appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

One of the best parts of my job is helping outstanding local students achieve their dream of attending a U.S. Service Academy. These are dreams that involve immense sacrifice, as students are committing at least nine years of their lives in defense of our freedom and way of life.  

In April, more than 300 local students, parents and teachers participated in “Service Academy Days” I hosted in Charlotte and Fayetteville. If you missed the events and would like to learn more about the rigorous nomination process, please call my Charlotte office at 704-362-1060.

To the families of those who died in service to our nation, we extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude. To the veterans who served, we extend sincere appreciation and an offer to assist you with issues involving the VA. To the students entering U.S. Service Academies or enlisting, we say thank you and congratulations.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.

Photo: Jake Dean of Waxhaw received a rare double-appointment to both West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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