Called to Serve

Rep. Dusty Johnson

Many may not know that Members of Congress are able to nominate students to our nation’s military academies. It’s a real opportunity to ensure South Dakota values help shape military decisions – and it’s also a real opportunity to make sure the military looks like the American people it’s responsible to defend.

Saying it is an honor to nominate students from across our great state to serve our nation doesn’t do the moment justice. These are not ordinary high school graduates. Some grew up knowing they were interested in attending an academy, some grew up in a family with a long line of military service and some have no family military history at all. But what they do have in common is a good moral character, their commitment to our nation’s defense and selfless bravery and courage. They all feel called to serve their country.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to organize a virtual academy reception for some of the students my office nominated. June is quite a transition month for these soon-to-be Cadets and Midshipmen. These students will head to their respective academies in late June and early July – surrendering civilian clothing and belongings (even their cell phones!) – and begin their military training. You can imagine this is also a transition month for their parents as well – who may only speak with their son or daughter three times throughout the summer. Very different than a traditional college drop-off.

It’s hard from Day One for a reason. It’s hard because these Cadets and Midshipmen will commission as military officers at graduation. It’s hard because when called to lead soldiers, airmen, sailors, or Marines, these young Americans will rely on the skills and training gained from experience at the academies. It’s hard because the United States is home to the mightiest military in the world, due in no small part to the dedicated young men and women who serve.

While we wish the 2024 service academy class godspeed, we also look ahead to the next round of nominations. Our office is currently accepting applications for nominations to the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy until Friday, October 30. Visit my website or call one of my offices if you are interested in learning more about the nomination process.

I look at my three sons and I don’t know what the future has in store for them. I don’t know if they’ll choose to serve in the military like their grandfather, if they’ll choose a liberal arts degree, or if they’ll choose to pursue a technical trade. What I do know is my conversations with these academy candidates has helped shape who I want to be as a parent and what values I want to instill in my children as they grow older.

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