Vermont Military Academy Nominees Meet (WCAX-TV)

Reported by Andy Potter - WCAX News

To watch the video on the WCAX web site, click here.

Montpelier, Vermont - Saturday was a rare day when all three members of Vermont's congressional delegation got together in their home state. The occasion was a tradition that goes back through history.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch, stood together in the historic Cedar Creek room at the Vermont Statehouse. "We're in a very special place," Leahy told the gathering. The centerpiece of the room is a large wall painting depicting the 1864 Civil War battle of Cedar Creek, in which Vermonters fought to victory.

Along with the delegation stood the Vermont applicants to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine academies. Among them was 17 year-old David Perry, a native of Richford. He hopes to follow his father and grandfather into the Navy. He acknowledged that some of his high school friends would never consider such a career.

"I do know some people who don't hold the military in as high regard as I do," Perry said. "I know a lot of people who are against a lot of the things the military are doing right now. And to those people I would have to say, without our military and without the freedoms we protect, we wouldn't be the United States of America. We wouldn't have our freedoms, we wouldn't have a lot of the things we take for granted"

Perry's immediate family has a hundred years of combined service in the Navy. But Perry's father, Ken, says no one pressured his son to take the same course that he did. "I think what I'm most proud of is he's come to this choice himself," Ken Perry told Channel 3.

All three of Vermont's members of Congress are opposed to the war in Iraq, but all three count themselves as supporters of the country's military institutions -- and of the young people who will become tomorrow's military leaders.

Sanders said, "There is no question, as everyone in this room knows, that in a democracy there are political disagreements about foreign policy, and that is what a democracy is about. But I think as everybody also knows, that in our country there is unanimous belief that we need a strong military, we need an honorable military."

Applicants to the military academies must obtain a nomination from one or more members of a state's congressional delegation. It doesn't guarantee admission. But it sends a strong signal that those who win support from a Senator or Representative are serious about their commitment to the country.