BSM graduates bound for military academies, service

| July 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

From left, Benilde-St. Margaret’s School 2017 graduates Lucas Latterell, Kameron Herndon, John Boase, Maria Satre, Sean McCullough and Carston Swenson have received offers of appointment to a U.S. military academy or plan to enlist in a branch of the military. Not pictured is graduate Lauren McDonnell, who is attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Courtesy Benilde-St. Margaret’s School.

Among Benilde-St. Margaret’s School’s graduating class of 219 students this year, four are bound for the U.S. Naval Academy, with others heading to West Point, winning national Naval ROTC scholarships or otherwise preparing to don uniforms in service of their country.

The latest BSM graduate to gain admittance to the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy is Lauren McDonnell, who had been on a waiting list. The last-minute nod had her scrambling to pack, say goodbye to family and move to Annapolis, Maryland, for Plebe Summer, training to become a midshipman.

“My [Catholic] faith played a big role,” McDonnell said of her choice of careers, adding that both faith and family have instilled in her a sense of duty. She believes a military career is ideal for serving others.

Also attending the academy are 2017 BSM graduates Sean McCullough, Maria Satre and Carston Swenson.

“I fell in love with it,” said Swenson, who has a grandparent who served in the Navy. “I love the history, the prestige.”

That so many graduates from one school received offers of appointment to the competitive Naval Academy is a salute to their parents and the St. Louis Park Catholic school, said Lt. Col. Alex Plechash, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot and 1975 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who assists young people, including BSM students, considering military careers. He called the number of appointments “amazing.”

Devin Harrington, BSM director of marketing and communications, indicated the number is likely a school record. According to the Naval Academy, nine BSM graduates have become midshipmen since 1984, when they began tracking such data.

Appointees to the Naval Academy must be nominated by “an official source,” usually one of the applicant’s representatives in Congress. While in the academy, students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy. After graduation, they serve at least five years in the Navy or Marine Corps.

The academy’s class of 2021 includes 18 Minnesotans, including graduates of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul and St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights.

‘I’ve always wanted to serve’

Three other Red Knights followed a call to service by entering other branches of the military. For John Boase, this means reporting for duty to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, this month.

“I’ve always wanted to serve — that’s been in the back of my mind,” Boase said.

The new cadet and Army officer hopeful said he and his father researched a military career. Awaiting Boase at the academy is six weeks of basic training to instill a “military mindset,” he said.

Boase was not the only Red Knight to receive a West Point appointment. Lucas Latterell also gained admittance, but turned it down for a full Naval ROTC scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The scholarship provides Latterell a path to becoming a U.S. Marine Corps officer, one of his goals.

“It was a really tough decision,” he said.

But Latterell views the Marine Corps as a cut above. He said he admires the branch’s tradition, pride and members’ reputation as “fearsome warriors.”

If he were to go in harm’s way, this is the kind of people he would want to be around him, he explained. One of them could be classmate Kameron Herndon, who enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Although the graduates cite different factors in their decisions to pursue military careers, as with McDonnell, Swenson, Boase and Latterell indicated that faith played a role. BSM Principal Susan Skinner said the students are prepared to lead with a moral compass.

Latterell sees elements of Catholic social teaching — especially protecting the weak and downtrodden — in his decision to serve.

That could mean braving dangerous situations, but Latterell looks to his faith for comfort and strength.

“God has a plan for me,” he said, “[and] I wanted to give back to the country that has given me so much.”

Boase said that while his Catholic faith could be stronger, he believes he’s following a basic principle. “God wants me to use my full potential,” he said.

Plechash sees selflessness as a recurring theme in the BSM graduates. “They are candidates motivated by things larger than themselves,” he said.

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Category: Faith and Culture