America. Service. Freedom. Honor. Duty.
These were just a few of the words that rang from a microphone Tuesday morning at Scott County High School when Noah Rodman, Ben Johnson, Sam Pendergrass and Vanessa Roseboom announced their plans to join the military after graduation.
The four seniors made their respective decisions official during a signing ceremony in the school’s auditorium with family, friends and classmates in attendance.
“It is so important to publicly recognize and support our students that make a commitment to serve our nation in a branch of the United States Military,” said SCHS principal Joe Pat Covington. “We want all of our students and community to know how much we respect their decision, sacrifice and the positive impact it makes on our school and community.”
Rodman plans to attend the Naval Academy.
He said the decision was easy for him.
“It’s a great establishment,” Rodman said. “It’s one of the top engineering schools in the nation and it was completely free to me.
“It was a tough process to get in, but it was an easy choice because I want to serve the country.”
Rodman said he’ll be the first in his family to join the armed forces.
“(My family) was a little concerned at first, but at the same time they are really happy because it’s a great opportunity for me,” he added.
Johnson will be heading to the Air Force Academy in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.
“Around the start of ninth grade I heard about the service academy and it was something I was really interested in,” Johnson said. “So, I applied to all three and I got accepted into West Point and the Air Force Academy.
“I chose the Air Force because first of all I loved Colorado. I’ve always wanted to be a pilot and I thought the Air Force was the better opportunity to do that.”
Johnson said he recently had a conversation with new Superintendent of Scott County Schools Dr. Kevin F. Hub, who is a West Point graduate.
“He told me I should have accepted, but I guess he has to say that,” Johnson laughed.
Pendergrass will join the Army National Guard, just like his father.
“It’s just the right choice to serve my country,” he said.
Pendergrass said he plans to become a crew chief member on a Blackhawk helicopter.
“I’ll be taking them apart, putting them together and riding on them,” Pendergrass said. “I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to have this honor.”
Roseboom also wants to follow in the footsteps of other family members by enlisting in the active Army duty.
“Both my parents were in the army, so I wanted to stick with it and make it a family tradition,” she aid.
She has plans to become an unmanned aerial systems maintenance technician.
“I want to work on my mechanic skills,” Roseboom said. “I can’t keep my hands still very often. After that I want to get a degree in criminology.”
Also in attendance Tuesday were several veterans from the American Legion in Scott County and one special guest speaker – Marine Corporal and Wounded Warrior Matthew Bradford.
Bradford, a Kentucky native, joined the Marines when he was 18 years old, just a few years after the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Eight years ago, while on tour in Iraq, Bradford was severely injured when he stepped on a road side bomb and it exploded underneath him.
He lost both of his legs and his vision from shrapnel. It left him in a coma for three weeks upon returning to the United States.
“Once I got out of the coma I was dealing with guilt of leaving my brothers behind, who were still fighting a war I wanted to fight,” Bradford told the crowd. “I was depressed and I hated life. I realized when I joined the , the only two ways I wanted to come home was with my brothers or in a body bag not looking like this.”
But Bradford said he realized there was a life outside of the hospital doors and soon decided to reenlist in the .
He was successful and in 2010 became the first blind, double-amputee to reenlist in the service.
He was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to work with other Wounded Warriors.
“I learned I could help them with what they were going through, because I had been in their shoes,” Bradford said. “What happened to me was one bad day that led to many good days.”
Since then, Bradford has returned home – he now resides in Jessamine County.
A self-described adrenaline junkie, Bradford hasn’t let his injuries stop him from accomplishing anything he sets his mind to.
“I hunt and fish, I’ve hand-cycled five marathons, walked 10 miles in the dessert, skydived, surfed, sang on stage with Toby Keith,” Bradford said. “I haven’t let my injuries define the person I am today.”
He also got married, and became a dad, all while enrolling in the University of Kentucky as a student.
Bradford is set to graduate next spring with two degrees.
He hopes to one day start his own sports radio talk show.
In a lighthearted moment near the end of his speech, Bradford attributed his good sense of humor to helping overcome life’s obstacles.
“Believe me, if you can’t make fun of yourself, you won’t make it,” Bradford said. “I make jokes about my feet being cold all the time I went skydiving. Believe me, If I could see I wouldn’t be jumping out of no airplane. And with surfing what shark is gonna want to eat me? I don’t have any legs.”
He ended on a serious note, though.
“Throughout my recovery I’ve had a positive attitude,” Bradford said. “I’ve had the attitude that I’m not going to fail no matter what I do. I might be blind, but I still have vision. My vision is to go out, live a positive life no matter what stands in my way.”
Ryan Alves can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.