BRIDGEPORT — Approximately 75 students from across North Central West Virginia learned more about military service academies at Bridgeport High School on Sunday.
The event was hosted by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, and included representation from several military service academies, including those affiliated with the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Merchant Marines.
"I think this is one of the best turn outs (of families) that we've had," she said. "I was particularly interested to see a lot of young girls, because traditionally enrollment (in the service academies) is 20-25 percent. The interest of young women I think is exciting for us as a country."
Capito said enrollment in one of the service academies benefits students not only academically, but also emphasizes their leadership potential, patriotism and compassion for other people.
"In order to be admitted to the academies, you need to have a nomination from either your United States senator or from a member of Congress. From where I sit in Washington, D.C., I think the opportunity to attend one of the service academies is nothing short of phenomenal," Capito said. "When I know the best and brightest are going to the service academies, I want the best and brightest West Virginians there."
Capito has seen her past nominees achieve great things through military service.
U.S. Army Major David Crigger, a helicopter pilot from Charleston whom Capito nominated to United States Military Academy in New York, flew Capito during her visit to Afghanistan in 2014.
Mason Titchenal, a Bridgeport High School sophomore, already has his sights on serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Titchenal's father, Adam Titchenal, served as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force.
Titchenal became part of the school's JROTC program this fall, and is a Cadet Private First Class.
"I knew it could give me a good perspective on what the military life is like. I wanted to get a feel for it," Mason Titchenal said. "I was excited to come (Sunday) and get a feel for all of the different Corps, but preferably Air Force."
University High School junior William Miller, of Morgantown, is also part of his school's JROTC program.
"I've wanted to be in the army since I was in eighth grade. It really offers the ability to improve your way of life, a way to receive a higher degree of respect," Miller said.
Miller's father, Scott Miller, served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 14 years, including a tour in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Scott Miller said he joined the Reserves in high school, completing basic training between his junior and senior years.
"I've known (William Miller) has wanted to do this for awhile, so I'm proud of him," Scott Miller said. "I think he'll do well in whatever he does. He's got some drive to him."
The younger Miller is enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes and is committed to becoming a better athlete as well.
Kalli Lindsey, an East Fairmont Middle School eighth-grade student, wants to enlist either in the U.S. Air Force or the Marine Corps after high school. Lindsey is part of the Civil Air Patrol at North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport and was inspired by the military service of her two uncles, one being a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps who is currently stationed in San Diego and another retired from the U.S. Air Force.
Lindsey said she has wanted to enlist for six years and is contemplating attending a service academy.
Lindsey's mother, Draga Lindsey, said her brother is the U.S. Marine Corps pilot and he also had a strong desire to join the military as a teenager. She is supportive of her daughter.
Capito, Congressman David McKinley and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin also hosted Academy Days in Charleston, Jefferson County and Bluefield during the past two weeks.