Recent graduate Petar Jackovich had just landed in Colorado last Wednesday, and he called to talk in one of his last phone conversations before his cell is taken away for the summer.
Jackovich cut his summer break early last week to report to basic training at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and he joined other local students who will learn and train at military academies before entering the armed forces for at least five years after school.
"I always wanted to give back to my country," Jackovich said. "So when I talked to (Air Force) and they told me about the opportunity I had it was a bonus to be able to go to school and give back."
Likewise, recent graduate Leo St. Amour is reporting to West Point this week and will join the U.S. Army after school. And like Jackovich, who has a specific area of study he'd later like to apply during his military service, St. Amour is a top student who's excited for the opportunity. Jackovich will major in business management and said he would like to be involved with finances or acquisitions in the Air Force. St. Amour has a love of computer engineering and wants to apply that knowledge to the Army's Engineering Corps or military intelligence.
"Around sixth grade had a friend who said he knew how to build computers," St. Amour said. "I immediately thought, 'How can someone know how to do that?' I fell in love with computers after that."
Jackovich graduated twentieth in his class with a 4.5 GPA. He after starring in the sport at Central all four years. He also was the treasurer of the Future Business Leaders of America, and a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.
St. Amour was the salutatorian in his class at West, graduating with a 5.09 GPA. He was an officer for the National Honor Society, a captain on the football team and led his Mathletes team to a first-place finish in state.
Clearly, these students had to be smart to be appointed to the military academies. But their conviction about the service is what stands out. Speaking early Wednesday, just before President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night he was pulling home 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next summer, the students looked back on the years since 9/11 and had no second guesses about the climate they're entering. Just 8 or 9 when it happened, Jackovich and St. Amour were convinced that service was the best way to give back to their country. Jackovich added that he's had family in the Air Force, Marines and Navy.
"I’m incredibly patriotic," St. Amour said. "I don’t know if 9/11 has swayed me in any way. But it definitely hasn’t scared me off."
Providence Catholic graduate and New Lenox resident , but she could not be immediately reached for comment.