An estimated 325 high school students, perhaps the largest crowd in the history of Academy Day, wedged into chairs and bleachers Sunday afternoon in the Madison Academy cafeteria.
They were there to learn more about attending one of the nation’s service academies. Representatives from the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy were on hand.
“This is a great crowd,” Brooks said. “From what I understand, this is the largest crowd we’ve had for Academy Day. That is a reflection of the patriotism in this district.”
Another example of the area’s patriotism, said Brooks, is a national Top 10 ranking in the number of applicants who are accepted into one of the nation’s military academies.
Another example, said Don Ecklin, Alabama State Coordinator and Admissions Field Representative for the U.S. Military Academy, is the 5th Congressional District putting 15 to 20 people into one of the service academies.
He attributes those numbers to the patriotism and the strong military presence in the area.
The representatives attended at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, the host of Academy Day.
“But they come because they want to serve,” he said. “It’s all about serving their country, and we’re in a time of war. That speaks volumes to this district.”
The 5th Congressional District, by Ecklin’s estimate, is among the top five most competitive districts for appointments to the U.S. Military Academy.
“What you see here (Sunday) … these kids are the serious contenders,” he said. “The ones who are here, they want it.”
Among the serious contenders for the U.S. Military Academy was Ryan Parris, a sophomore at James Clemens High School in Madison.
Parris said he learned a lot about West Point at Academy Day. He said he already knew about the academic requirements.
“The nominations that you have to get,” he said, “I was not aware of that.”
Michael Owens, a junior at Huntsville High School, was among those who were serious about the Naval and Air Force academies.
“He wants to fly,” said his mother, Karen. “He’s taking flying lessons at Redstone.”
Because of his commitment to aviation, he’s having difficulty deciding between Navy and Air Force.
“I’m definitely going to apply to both,” he said. “I don’t know yet what the deciding factor will be.”
featured image: Color Guard