Maggie Blackstun graduates from the Air Force Academy
May 29, 2010
Basic training was coming to a close at the United States Air Force Academy in the fall of 2006, and cadet Maggie Blackstun was thinking about giving in.
Weeks without talking to her parents, physical stress and a brief illness had worn her down.
She was prohibited from contacting family and friends, and forced to sit at attention during meals.
"It's a tough thing to be going through all that without someone there who really knows you," she said.
But, the 2006 Moffat County High School graduate had been accepted to the academy on the basis of her academic merits and strength of character.
The young engineer, who has aspirations of being an astronaut, pushed through the barriers.
Support flooded in from her family and from the Craig community, and a message of pride reached her.
Maggie, 22, graduated Wednesday from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. She will continue on to graduate school to continue her studies in astronautical engineering and Russian.
The Augusta Wallihan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hosted a reception Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 to celebrate Maggie's achievement.
Dressed in her blue Air Force uniform, Maggie mingled with family and friends, telling stories from her time at the academy and discussing her wide-open future.
With her background in Russian and strong academics, Blackstun is considering being an astronaut.
It's a goal that feels almost unattainable now, but she had the same thoughts about completing the Air Force Academy four years ago.
It was a family legacy that inspired her to apply for the academy.
Her aunt, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather have military academy backgrounds. Others in her family also enlisted in the service.
Her parents, David and Barbara Blackstun, were Peace Corps volunteers, continuing a legacy of duty and service.
Both said they were proud of their oldest daughter for making the choice that would be best for her future. Still, it wasn't easy to watch her go.
David said the moment she arrived at the academy, he felt as though he had lost control.
"At 18, she became a part of the military," he said. "It was noticeable from day one when she had days off, that she was under the control of the military. It was hard for me to understand and accept that."
But, she stayed close to her family in significant ways.
The night before the class of 1,000 cadets graduated, Maggie took her oath of service, which was administrated by Brigadier Gen. Bud Sterling.
Sterling is a West Point graduate who retired after 30 years in the army.
He's also her grandfather.
Maggie said Sterling taught her everything from the proper way to shine her shoes to the meaning of duty and honor while she was at the academy.
"It was amazing, knowing I was following in his footsteps and the footsteps of my aunt and uncle," she said. "I hope I can give back as much as he's given me."
At the reception Friday, Sterling called his granddaughter an exemplary leader.
"She just has this well-rounded personality," he said. "She was captain of the ski team, and it's not because she was the best skier on the team. It was because her friends voted her to be captain."
He said he was proud to swear her into the service, passing the family legacy onto a new generation of service men and women.
Previously, he had performed similar ceremonies for his son and daughter, Maggie's aunt and uncle, when they graduated from the Air Force Academy and West Point, respectively.
"When you're in the service, it's your duty to carry out the orders of your superiors and do it with honor, keeping your own sacred honor," Sterling said.
For Maggie, that sense of honor and duty was important enough see her through the most trying obstacles.
"When you're in it, it seems so hard," she said. "But then you step back and look at what you're doing and why you're doing it. The little things wear you down, but you've got to look at the big picture and keep a good sense of humor about things."