Each year I have the distinct privilege of nominating bright students in southern Missouri to attend our nation’s prestigious service academies. 

One of the highlights of my year is calling these young men and women in the spring and being the first to tell them they are among the few selected in the highly competitive application process. 

It’s an incredible accomplishment to be appointed to an academy, but then begins the real challenge of intense physical, mental, and military training at our country’s historic service academies.

The service academies only accept the best of the best – successful applicants have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership skills, and strong character. Those who attend the academies are following in the footsteps of the greatest military commanders in American history. They will be expected to be in top physical shape, prepared for intense academic education, and follow a strict code of honor. I’ve visited the service academies to support nominees from southern Missouri and see their training firsthand. Graduating will take four years of discipline, teamwork, and grit.

I couldn’t be prouder of the students from southern Missouri who will take this challenge head on. Sam Stolzer from Ste. Genevieve and Andrew West from Cape Girardeau are Annapolis-bound to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. For the first time, I had the opportunity to celebrate two students from the same high school who will be heading to the same academy. Garrett Marshall and Alexandra Gibbs, both from Steelville High School, will attend the oldest military academy in our country, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Sometimes the call to serve is a family bond, as it is for Madison Manion from Park Hills. She will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado as her brother Luke, who I nominated in 2017, attends West Point.

At every celebration ceremony at the students’ schools, we take the opportunity to thank everyone who chooses to serve our country in uniform. Being accepted to a service academy is a high honor, but every man and women who wears the uniform for our country deserves our thanks and gratitude.

If you know someone interested in the service academies, contact our office at 573-756-9755 to learn more about the process. We will be accepting applications for the 2020 class through October 31, 2019. To be eligible, an applicant must be in between 17 and 23 years old, a U.S. citizen residing in the 8th Congressional District, and prepared to meet the medical, physical, and academic requirements of the academies.

I pray that God watches over these students as they begin the next chapter of their lives and prepare to serve our country with honor. I’m confident they will represent our country well and their experiences at the service academies will make them better people, proud Americans, and one day, officers in the military.

Congressman Jason Smith, R-Mo., represents Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes West Plains, Rolla, Farmington, Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff. As a member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Smith serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Budget Committee.

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