BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WV News) — A handful of Bridgeport High School seniors were nominated by state leaders to attend service academies this fall.
Ayden Ward started getting interested in military service in middle school after hearing about his father Michael’s service in the U.S. Army, grandfather Walter Flanigan’s service and uncle Mark’s service. Ayden was not deterred after hearing about their acts.
“Growing up around it is really prestigious. I’ve always held a lot of respect for veterans,” Ward said. “There’s a lot of benefits that come with it, and it’s a really exciting career field. It’s not like anything else.”
After being battalion commander during the first semester, Ward is executive officer (commissioned a cadet lieutenant colonel) of the high school’s joint JROTC program with Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg, a student-run program he’s been with since he was a freshman. About 80 students are part of the program.
“We motivate young people to become better citizens,” Ward said. “A big part of that is civic education, as well as physical training and a history component and drill and ceremony.
“It isn’t necessarily a recruitment program for the military. It’s got those connections if you want them, but most cadets go into civilian sector careers.”
Ward, the first battalion commander from Bridgeport High School, trained officers during the summer Officer Candidate School and thought his participation improved his leadership abilities.
He was chosen for Mountaineer Boys State and has received several academic recognitions.
Ward was nominated by to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point by Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito as well as Congressman David McKinley.
“These students truly represent our best and our brightest, and I am confident in their ability to become the next generation of our leaders in our nation,” Capito said.
Ward looks forward to the service obligation after his four years of schooling and becoming an officer.
“A degree from West Point is taken very seriously,” he said. “I’ve taken two tours of the military academy. One of them in November was overnight with three other cadets. It felt like one big family, and I really like that.”
While he applied for the U.S. Air Force Academy last year, now-Bridgeport High School graduate Tate Jordan helped Ward through the application process. Jordan currently attends a different ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
Ward applied for and also earned a four-year, full tuition ROTC scholarship to attend Virginia Tech if he is not accepted into West Point. He was also accepted to WVU, Penn State and University of North Georgia.
Ward hopes to hear if he was accepted into West Point by March.
Ryan Hall was also nominated to attend the U.S. Naval Academy by both Manchin and Capito while David Hill was nominated by Manchin to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Hall is an all-state linebacker and running back on the Indians football squad, and pitches for the baseball team. He is a member of the National Honor Society and French Club and sits first chair cello in the string orchestra.
“Attending a U.S. Service Academy is a privilege reserved for the best and brightest young men and women across the country,” Manchin said. “West Virginia has built a reputation of service and sacrifice, and I’ve always said we are one of the most patriotic states in the nation.
“I am honored to recommend these young men and women who feel a calling to serve our country, and I am confident our service academies will develop them into our next generation of military leaders. I join all West Virginians in congratulating these hardworking and committed students for their nominations,” Manchin said.