Local students nominated for U.S. service academies
Last week, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) nominated 36 First District students to United States service academies. Many of those students and their families came to the Patchogue Elks Lodge from as far as Southampton and Ridge to be recognized and congratulated by Zeldin and other local representatives.
Each year, members of congress nominate candidates for appointment to four of the five U.S. service academies: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., does not require a congressional nomination for appointment.
Of the 36 nominees, four of them are local students. Nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy are Ezekiel Torres of Shirley and Katelyn McCabe of Patchogue. Patchogue-Medford student Hunter Cafiero was nominated for appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy and Steven Shaw of Shirley was nominated for the U.S. Military Academy.
The nominees received well wishes and recognition from local leaders, who congratulated them on their accomplishments. The Rev. Louis A. Medina led a brief prayer before the ceremony in which he reflected on what the Armed Forces mean to him. “As you begin your journey into serving our country, never forget that the framers of this nation began by defending and protecting the people,” Medina said, referencing the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
Councilman Neil Foley said that seeing the young men and women achieve at this level was inspiring. “It’s a reminder that we live in the greatest country in the world. It’s not perfect, but it’s great. Work hard, be leaders and never compromise your integrity,” Foley said, congratulating the nominees.
Though the focus of the evening was on high-achieving students, Mayor Paul Pontieri offered support and recognition for their parents. “It’s gratifying to know that our children want to serve, but in a way it’s difficult for us to understand what they are going to go through,” Pontieri said, alluding to his own experiences with his son serving in the Armed Forces. “Be there for them. They are taking one of the more difficult paths,” he added.
Mark Woolley, who is the First Congressional District director, led the ceremony on behalf of Zeldin, whose travel plans were delayed after a vote ran late in D.C. “Our service academies play a vital role in training our future leaders,” he said. “It’s been a long journey to get to today.” The process began nearly a year ago, as the students who were then juniors in high school began to plan for their futures. In June, Zeldin hosted an informational meeting at Town Hall to kick-start the application process. Sixteen volunteers served on Zeldin’s Service Academy Review Committee and worked tirelessly to narrow down the candidates, based on criteria including academic achievement, leadership, character and their participation in extracurricular activities.
En route from the airport, Zeldin addressed the nominees through a FaceTime call cast on a television screen. “You are the best of the best of your generation,” the congressman said. “To want to serve in a U.S. service academy really says a lot about your character and your discipline. I would not have given you a nomination if not for your leadership potential and how well you did during the interview process. It’s obvious that you all worked incredibly hard to get to this point,” wishing them the best going forward. “It is my hope that each nominee will take full advantage of all that the service academy has to offer.”