Four years after walking across the stage together at Highland Park High School, Myer Ungerman, Blake Gordon, and Hardy Davis were recently bonded in brotherhood when they all took military oaths.
In May, Ungerman and Gordon graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., while Hardy Davis graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Getting into a service academy is no easy feat. Only 9.5 percent of high schoolers that apply to West Point are accepted. The Naval Academy’s acceptance rate is even lower at 7.9 percent.
Among other requirements, applicants must meet high academic standards and pass a physical fitness test. They are also required to get a recommendation from a public official, such as a U.S. Senator or Congressman.
Davis began preparing for the academy before he started high school. When he was in eighth grade, he learned about naval aviation, and was determined to get into West Point.
“I was kind of a geeky jock,” Davis said. “I loved playing football and sports, but I liked reading physics books too.”
Davis credits his former Boy Scouts Scoutmaster Rick Owens for telling him about the Navy.
“When I got to high school, I knew what I had to do,” he said.
While in Annapolis, Davis played sprint football, a version of the sport that requires participants to weigh 170 pounds or less. According to him, days often dragged on into the wee hours of the morning in order to meet all of his obligations.
Ungerman began considering a military academy during his sophomore year of high school. During the summer after his junior year, he spent a week at West Point and Annapolis.
“The academy was a good challenge that I couldn’t have overcome without my family, friends and mentors,” Ungerman said. “As I learned more about the options available in the Army as opposed to the Navy, I started seeing myself in the Army.”
Of the trio, Gordon may have seemed the most likely service academy candidate. While his father finished his time from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1985, Blake never expressed any interest in the military.
After a change of heart, he offhandedly told his parents about his intentions over dinner one night during his junior year.
“It was very much a surprise to us,” his mother Melissa said.
According to Gordon, he was drawn to the military because of the personal development opportunities.
“It was also a chance for me to serve and pay something back to America,” he said.
Gordon describes his college experience as mentally exhausting. In addition to a full academic schedule and military training, he served as captain of the fencing team.
All three graduates are now obligated to serve as officers in the military. Ungerman will soon head to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for engineer officer schooling before going to ranger school in Hawaii next year.
Gordon is headed to field artillery officer training at Fort Carson in Colorado. Davis will return to Annapolis to coach sprint football before attending flight school in Pensacola, Fla.
Before returning to duty, the new graduates are enjoying some well-earned vacation time. Gordon has been traveling across the country, stopping at the Grand Canyon.
Ungerman is exploring Europe, and hopes to make a sweep through many countries in the central and southern region.
Davis is also traveling in Europe, and plans to learn as much history as possible.
“Mark Twain said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,’” Davis said. “I think it’s important for a lot of people my age to remember that.”