Admission to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy doesn't require a Congressional nomination like other divisions of military schools in the country. This wasn't the reason graduating senior from Park City High School, Jonson Henry, wanted to join the military unit – he just thought it gave him a better opportunity to follow his passion.
"I've always been fascinated with boats, water and the military, so pursuing a career in the Coast Guard made sense," Henry said during an interview.
After attending a summer camp held by the Navy last year, the 18 year-old changed his mind and decided to pursue acceptance into the Naval Academy. Yet, the student was unsure if the resume he had compiled during his time at PCHS was strong enough to make the cut – which can only be decided by a U.S. senator or congressman.
At the beginning of April, Henry answered the ringing family phone to hear the voice of Utah Senator Mike Lee on the other end.
"I don't remember exactly how it went down, but I know I wasn't able to say much for the first few minutes of the conversation because I was shocked, so I let the Senator do the talking," Henry said. "I was just sitting there on the phone stunned and I didn't know what to say, or how to react really. After I got off the phone everything that I had feared about not being nominated had passed and I felt amazing; I still do."
Henry, who plans on studying engineering at the academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, was nominated by Lee along with seven other high school graduates this year for enrollment in various military academies.
Last Friday at the Alta Club in Salt Lake City, Lee hosted a dinner to honor the eight high school graduates he recommended for Academy enrollment. The event was an opportunity for the Senator to express his appreciation to the appointees for their decision to serve their country, and to recognize their parents.
"The interview process was so long and we never got the opportunity to meet the Senator," Henry said. "It was great getting the opportunity to shake his hand, and see how excited he was for us."
The application process, involving written proposals and face-to-face interviews, started at the beginning of the school year for Utah high school seniors interested in serving the military while earning a college education, according Emily Bennion, press secretary at the Senator's office.
After receiving 69 applications for the Navy from high school students in Utah, 31 were interviewed. Lee then made his nominations of the eight Utah students to the nation's military service academies based on their academic achievement, leadership, community service and participation in extracurricular activities.
According to proud parents Jon and Cheryl Henry, neither of them had ever served in the military, but a family tree that could shake loose a few Marines may have enticed their son to make the decision to follow a path in the military.
"My dad, brother and cousin are all Marines, which I am sure had an impact on his decision," Jon Henry said. "The Naval Academy is harder to get into than most colleges. His mom and I are both thrilled he is getting the opportunity to study engineering, while expressing his patriotism at the same time."
Lounging pool side, waiting for fall classes to start, will not be on the itinerary for the midshipman who will be joining the rest of the Naval Brigade on June 26 for the beginning of six weeks of boot camp.
The Navy pays 100 percent of the tuition, room and board, medical and dental care costs of midshipmen. All students who attend the Naval Academy do so with a full scholarship in return for five years of active duty service upon graduation.
"I have always admired the ideals of the nation, freedom and democracy," Henry said. "My whole life I grew up hearing military stories from my family, and they were all really positive character-building experiences that gave me more eagerness to pursue a life in the military. I'm looking forward to creating some of my own stories."
Updated: May, 29, 2013