Graduation 2018: Student patriots plan to serve in the air, on the sea, over the land
May 27, 2018
Once the ceremonies are over and celebrations have ended, a number of Moffat County High School graduates will ship off to military service.
They will become part of a proud tradition of servicemen and women from Northwest Colorado. Some will never return, some will return forever changed and some will come home to continue their service in the community.
During a weekend when American's remember the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women, some of the newest recruits took the time to share their aspirations, lessons learned from high school and what they will miss about Northwest Colorado.
Branch of the Armed Services: U.S. Air Force
Ship Date: To be determined
Her family was the inspiration and motivation behind graduate Karlee Brown's decision to enter the U.S. Air Force.
"A lot of my family has entered the military, and it seemed like the right choice," Brown said.
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She has two brothers in the U.S. Army and considered it for herself until the Air Force "caught my eye," she said.
Her path to graduation was untraditional. After spending a time with her father in Nevada, she returned to Craig behind in school. So, she entered the YES Opportunity School — an alternative school within the high school — where she excelled.
Brown will graduate on the same day, a year earlier, than her peers.
"I'm young for my class and super young to be graduating. … My parents will need to sign, so I'll know my ship date after graduation," Brown said.
Once enlisted, she thinks she'll peruse engineering, "… but I'm not 100-percent sure what I want to do. I want to keep my options open."
She's most looking forward to new experiences.
"A new community to be a part of, a new family and to move on from here," Brown said.
However, she'll also miss the support system provided by her mother, Jeannie Marchbanks, and the community.
"It's a tight community, for obvious reasons,” Brown said. “We are a small community and all have to be here for each other.”
She also offered a piece of advice for other students: "Enjoy the little things. They are the biggest things. That's what I laugh at the most, that's what angers me the most. The little things are everything. Don't focus on the big things too much; they are overwhelming, but you'll soon get there.”
Brown said she also believes in taking a moment to reflect on the accomplishments from school.
"There is so much to be proud of — sitting here, now. I'm just so blessed to have the life that I do today," she said. "It amazes me that I'm here."
Branch of the Armed Services: U.S. Marine Corps
Ship Date: Sept. 17
A desire to do something bigger with his life was Chris Jensen's motivation for enlisting in the U.S. Marines.
"I've always wanted to do something bigger with my life, bigger than staying in a small town and working 9 to 5. I've heard the Marines are the hardest, and I like a challenge," he said.
He added he’s looking forward to traveling the world.
"I love adventure," Jensen said.
The sunsets, friends and being a "stone's throw away from going to do something," are all things he said he will miss about Northwest Colorado.
He said he is grateful, however, for the guidance he has been given and offered a few words of wisdom to underclassmen.
"Do what you want to do. Don't let anyone talk you into doing something you don't want to do," he said. "It's your life to live, not theirs."
Branch of the Armed Services: U.S. Navy
Ship Date: To be determined
The opportunity to travel and receive a better education were some of the reasons Leon Sanderson decided to enter the U.S. Navy after high school.
"I have some family serving in the Navy right now. I felt it was the best thing to do after high school to serve and get a better education, as it's something productive after high school," he said.
An injury kept Sanderson sidelined for his final semester of sports.
"I wish I could have done more. I will really miss that part," he said, then added, "I'll miss the people and the teachers who have helped me get through high-school life and some of my friends and the people around town. The town is really peaceful."
Like many 2018 graduates, Sanderson said he is grateful for the support he received while a student at Moffat County High School.
"I want to thank the people in my life that helped us get to this point," Sanderson said. "I wouldn't have gotten this far without them and their advice."
Sanderson added he hopes other graduates and the students he leaves behind will "follow your path, your dreams, that one star that you've always wanted to reach for."
Branch of the Armed Services: U.S. Army
Ship Date: June 4
There isn't a specific reason or time when Robert Schmidt knew he wanted to enter the military; it's just something he says he's always wanted to do.
"It's never been something that I can set my hand down on. I've always had the drive to do it, to be out there as security. I couldn't do the 9 to 5," he said.
Schmidt is headed to the U.S. Army with plans to enlist in airborne school and compete for a place in Army Ranger School.
While in the service, he's looking forward to "jumping out of planes for a living." He added that enlisting in the military will allow him to “experience things before I have to settle down."
He acknowledged it's not going to be fun and games and said he has learned much through talking with his stepfather, brother, aunt and many other family members who have served in the military.
"There will be repetitive tasks, like counting rocks," Schmidt said.
He's proud of graduating early and testing as gifted and talented in math; otherwise, he said, high school has been "pretty normal."
Will Montgomery — a trainer at Trapper Fitness — is someone Schmidt has looked up to and wanted to thank, because, "He has the best future soldier training programs in town."
Once his service to his county is complete, Schmidt plans to use his training to build a business.
"Eventually, if I can make assets come together, I want to create a security service — Three Kings Security Service," he said.
Branch of the Armed Services: U.S. Army
Ship Date: July 16
When Zane Shipman was a young boy, he used to play army soldier; following graduation, he plans to become a real-life G.I. Joe.
Shipman's stepfather is a former Army Ranger, his grandfather was in the service and his great-grandfather served in France under General George S. Patton during World War II.
"Part of my motivation is that, it's my turn, and I have to carry it on. And part of my motivation is that I want to serve my country, because I love my country," Shipman said.
Due to poor eyesight, he wasn't able to immediately contract to the airborne, but that doesn't mean he's given up on the idea of jumping out of planes for a living.
"I'll try to push to become airborne," he said.
Shipman said he is most looking forward to seeing the world.
"Why not do it for free?" he asked.
He is not, however, looking forward to mornings.
"Waking up early in the morning and running … wouldn't be cool,” he said. I'm not a morning person.”
He said he’ll also miss his family and friends.
"I like being by the river and being able to go mudding and shooting. I don't know if I will come back afterward," Shipman said.
He said he’s proud of having played varsity sports every year while in high school, helping his football team to playoffs two years in a row and earning a league title in track for the first time in many years.
He's not sure if he'll return to Northwest Colorado after his time in the Army, but he plans to use his skills to become a first responder, firefighter, police officer or state trooper.
He expressed thanks to his stepfather, Troy Henderson, "for pushing and training me and giving me a 'can't quit attitude,'" he said.
A list of enlisting graduates was provided to the newspaper by the staff of Moffat County High School in early May. David Carsley and Devin McIntosh were on that list, but were not available for interview. Other students may also enlist, or have since gained acceptances to military academies. If you are related to a Moffat County graduate headed into the military who was not featured in this story, please contact us.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.