Flying High- A Veteran’s Day Story

November 1, 2012 | By More

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” President Woodrow Wilson, November 1919.

President Wilson proclaimed November 11 a national holiday in commemoration of the Armistice Day that ended World War I, then known as “the war to end all wars”. With peace and Wilson’s pet project, the League of Nations, the President never imagined that World War I would be a prelude to World War II or that war and international conflicts would continue to the present day.

Thirty-five years later, President Dwight Eisenhower changed the holiday’s name to Veteran’s Day to signify the heroism and sacrifices of our veterans not only from WWI and WWII but also of later generations of men and woman who served in the military.

Thanks to the heroic sacrifices of our military, the spirit of patriotism in America remains strong today. A career in the military is a respected occupation and, despite ongoing cutbacks in military spending, each year tens of thousands of new recruits sign up to defend our freedom in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard or the National Guards.

Joining any branch of the service is fraught with sacrifice, hard work and dangers that cannot be underestimated. But those who strive to begin a military career attending a four year officer’s training program like West Point or the United States Air Force Academy take a uniquely tough path. Competition for appointment is intense and once accepted, each cadet faces a rigorous schedule, extremely high expectations and strict rules of conduct.

Two cadets currently attending the prestigious Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. are C2C Ciani Ellison and C2C Jon Reasoner. Both third year/second class cadets graduated from Russellville High School in 2010.

Ellison joined the Air Force Academy because she wanted to be “a part of a team and do something more challenging. During high school I was very motivated to do well because I dreamt of being a doctor and the idea of going to a civilian college seemed never quite right for me,” said Ellison who was nominated to the Air Force Academy by Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Prior.

Being accepted to the Air Force Academy took hard work and determination, but that was just the beginning of the journey, according to Ellison. Cadets attend classes year round with three- three week summer sessions for four years to earn a bachelors degree.

“My time at the Academy has been the hardest and yet most rewarding experience of my life. Getting into the Academy is a very selective process and you have to be strong academically, physically and have leadership experience. But the hardest part about the Academy isn’t getting in, it’s staying in,” said Ellison.

Time demands on cadets are extremely difficult to keep up, agree Ellison and Reasoner, who each take 21-24 credit hours of classes per semester on top of spending 30 or more hours per week training at the air field. In addition to that, they have marching 5 to 6 times per week, training every Saturday from 0630 until 1645 in the evening and must maintain stringent fitness standards.

“Every single day we are challenged academically, physically, emotionally, and psychologically and going through these trials builds character and strength in friendships. The rigorous schedule and high expectations challenges us to achieve new personal goals, said Ellison, who is a biology per-med major on the Superintendent’s List (above 3.0 GPA, above 3.0 Physical Education Average, and in the top 10% of your class militarily).

With such rigorous schedules, you might think Ellison and Reasoner would welcome occasional periods of down time. But while many of their college friends get time off during the school breaks, both cadets dedicate all spare time as members of the elite Wings of Blue Parachute Team, the only Air Force Parachute Team. The team does demonstrations all over the country and competes in collegiate and national level competitions.

Despite the challenges of cadet life, there are many benefits to attending the Air Force Academy, agree Ellison and Reasoner. According to the Air Force Academy website, “Our investment in developing well-rounded leaders at the Academy pays untold dividends to our nation. You get a free, top-notch education, (valued at $416,000), free room and board, free medical and dental benefits and the opportunity for an exciting career as an officer in the Air Force. Our country gets leaders with drive, smarts, character and motivation. Everyone wins.”

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