Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) congratulated a dozen students from the Fourth Congressional District who will soon be leaving to attend the nation’s prestigious military academies. He hosted a reception on June 8 for the future cadets and midshipmen, and their families, as they prepare for four years of college at the military service academies.

It was hard work that got you here, it will take persistence, commitment, courage and devotion to God and our country to succeed,” Smith said to the nominees present at the forum. And succeed you will—as the next generation of leaders in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Merchant Marine.”

The appointees will be attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.

You are about to receive the greatest academic and military training a grateful nation can provideYou are about to be entrusted with the trust of a nation,” Smith said. “You are now about to become the next generation of peacekeepers—and if deterrence fails, peacemakers. When hurricanes and natural disasters hit here or anywhere in the world, you will be the difference between life and death, disease and disability—rescuing the weakest and most vulnerable.”

Noting this week’s worldwide celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day, Smith quoted President Trump’s emotional remarks made in France Thursday:

 “They battled, not for control and domination, but for liberty, democracy, and

self-rule. They pressed on for love and home and country, the main streets, the

schoolyards, the churches and neighbors and families and communities that gave

us men such as these.

               “They were sustained by the confidence that America can do anything, because

we are a noble nation, with a virtuous people, praying to a righteous God. The

exceptional might came from a truly exceptional spirit. The abundance of courage

came from an abundance of faith.”

The ceremony, held at the Monmouth County Connection in Neptune, was attended by Lt. Commander Eric Rion, Executive Officer of Naval Weapons Station Earle in Smith’s district, who addressed the students after Smith. Also in attendance were members of Smith’s Service Academy Selection Board, and Father Chris Dayton, Parochial Vicar of St. Rose in Belmar, who gave the invocation. Smith presented each of the nominees with an American Flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor.

Acceptance to the service academies is contingent upon receiving a congressional nomination. Smith has had the honor of nominating 1,029 young women and men, including 229 for the Air Force, 285 for the Army, 414 for the Navy and 130 for the Merchant Marine. Of these 261 were accepted and attended the highly competitive schools.

The following students at the reception from New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District who received appointments to the service academies were introduced:

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY:

Conor Callaghan, Plumsted—Conor graduated New Egypt High School in June 2018 and was a member of the varsity track and cross-country team as well as a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout. He has also volunteered for the Civil Air Patrol Search and Reserve. Conor will be attending the United States Air Force Academy and looks forward to this new adventure and all of the excellent academic, physical and military objectives the academy has to offer.

UNITED STATES MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY:

David Raymond Bettencourt, Tinton Falls—David attends the Monmouth Regional High School Advanced Placement Academy and is part of the graduating class of 2019. David is proud to be a part of both the varsity football and wrestling teams at his school, as well as having interned for the NJ Legislative District 11 constituent service office. He will be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and is thrilled to have the opportunity to be a leader, serving his country and community.

Emily Commodore, Tinton Falls—Emily Commodore attends Monmouth Regional High School and will be graduating on June 21, 2019. She is a member of the T3 Elite Lacrosse Program and a 4-year varsity lacrosse starting midfielder. She has recently joined the volunteer group, Long Branch H.E.R.O.’s. Emily will be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and is looking forward to this new chapter in her life, meeting new friends with the same goals, and playing women’s lacrosse at the academy.

Samuel Houston, Wall—Sam attends the Marion Military Institute and is a part of the graduating class of 2019. He was the Captain of both the wrestling and rugby teams in high school, and was also a part of Swampfox, an organization to learn small unit tactics. In addition, Sam has volunteered his time working with children with special needs at Camp Excel. He will be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and is looking forward to Sea Year and wrestling at the academy.

Patrick Modin, Rumson—Patrick currently attends the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) and will be graduating on June 19, 2019. Patrick is proud of his sailing skills and has won many awards for his talent. Additionally, he has volunteered at Lunch Break, a food bank in Red Bank, NJ, since he was a freshman. Patrick will be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he is excited to make new friendships and learn about Marine Engineering.

UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY:

Alyssa Austin, Colts Neck—Alyssa attends the Marine Academy of Science and Technology and is set to graduate on June 19, 2019. Some of her extracurricular activities include president of the Temple Youth Group, as well as captain of both the Colts Neck Highschool’s track and swim team. Alyssa will be attending the United States Military Academy and is looking forward to meeting her classmates and pursuing her dream to serve her country.

Robert Buecker, Allentown—Robert attends Notre Dame High School and is set to graduate on June 9, 2019. Robert was the captain of both the Football and Baseball teams for two years at his high school and has put forth his time volunteering in the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen as well as the Sacred Heart Turkey Drive. He will be attending the United States Military Academy and is looking forward to the challenge of being a cadet athlete, as well as adapting to a new environment.

James Cuber, Manchester—James attended the Marion Military Institute and was a part of the graduating class of 2019. He served as the commanding officer of his NJROTC unit in high school as well as the officer of various clubs such as Habitat for Humanity and Key Club where he worked towards helping the community. James will be attending West Point where he strives to be a leader and fulfill his dream of serving his country. 

James E. Fenn IV, Middletown—James attends Middletown High School South and is set to graduate on June 18, 2019. He is most proud of being a member of the United States Civil Air Patrol where he reached the rank of captain and was the recipient of both the Mitchell and Earhart Leadership Milestone Awards. In addition, James was the president of his  National Honor Society. His interactions with veterans of foreign wars and their service to the country has inspired James, and he looks forward to attending the United States Military Academy at West Point where he will be immersed in history and can fulfill his dream of becoming a member of the Long Grey Line. 

Justin McStay, Holmdel—Justin was a graduate of Holmdel High School in 2018. He was co-captain of the varsity soccer team and has helped volunteer with the Holmdel Youth Athletic Association, as well as the Monmouth County Food Bank. Justin will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point where he is looking forward to serving his country, and fulfilling his dream to be a leader, mentor, and soldier.

Zachary Simon, Freehold Twp.—Zachary attends Freehold Township High school and is due to graduate on June 24, 2019. He is proud to have served as an Eagle Scout, Student Body President, and a two-year captain in cross country. Zachary will be attending the United States Military Academy, where his goal is to challenge himself by stepping out of his comfort zone and trying new experiences.

UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY:

Nicholas Campbell, Allentown—Nicholas Campbell attends Allentown High School and will be graduating on June 22, 2019. Nicholas served as captain of the varsity football team for 2 years as well as a member of both National Honors Society and Math Honors Society. In addition, he has helped raise over $2,500 for Villagers in Malawi Africa. Nicholas will attend the United States Naval Academy where he plans to grow and better himself for the greater good of the country.


Also receiving nominations but not present at the event were:

Galina Gordon, Millstone—Galina attends Red Bank Regional High School and will graduate later this month. She was a member of National Honors Society, as well as President of the Science National Honors Society. Galina was All-Academic Fencer, and First Team for the US Fencing Association, and has volunteered 75+ hours for the NJ Special Olympics. Galina will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she will fulfill her dream of becoming a strong leader and army officer.

Christian Schwarz, Tinton Falls—Christian attends the Marine Academy of Science and Technology and is part of the graduating class of 2019. He was Team Captain for the Varsity Swim Team at Monmouth Regional and Sergeant at Arms, a Student Council position with the responsibility of maintaining order and executing events effectively at his school. Additionally, Christian has volunteered much of his time to various Boy Scouts events and Key Club Service Projects. He will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point and is looking forward to fulfilling his dream of serving his country like his relatives before him.

Anthony John Firriolo, Manasquan—Anthony, whose family lives in Manasquan, is a graduate from Don Bosco Preparatory High School and was an athlete on the Varsity Ice Hockey Team. He has volunteered at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Youth Hockey Program, and plays hockey with the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the North American Hockey League. Anthony will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point where he will be given the opportunity to serve his great nation and follow in the footsteps of so many great men and women who wore the West Point uniform before him. 

Nicholas Cataneo, Middletown—Nicholas attends the Marine Academy of Science and Technology and is part of the graduating class of 2019. Nicholas was a member of the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl Team, as well as Varsity Color Guard. Additionally, he has volunteered his time for Meals on Wheels and as a camp counselor for special needs children at NYC Department of Education Nest Summer Camp. Nicholas will be continuing his journey at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Nicholas’s desire to serve his country comes from his father and grandfather who both honorably served in the NYPD, and Nicholas looks forward to following their footsteps and answering the call to serve. 

Nicole Dado, Colts Neck—Nicole attends Colts Neck High School and is set to graduate this June. She is a member of the National Honor Society and both the Math and Science National Honor Societies. She is also an athlete on the Varsity Swim Team, served as Cadet Battalion Commanding Officer in the Colts Neck NJROTC Program, and has volunteered over 600 hours of community service. Nicole will be attending the United States Naval Academy. Nicole strives to live by the Navy’s core values and improve her analytical and leadership skills.