Duty, honor, country; this is the motto of the United States Military Academy at West Point, a school with a long tradition of turning out leaders.
Since its founding in 1802, the school has graduated the likes of Generals Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, President Eisenhower and a host of other luminaries.
Next fall, Central Montcalm High School (CMHS) senior Forrest Bartz will join their august ranks when he enters school there as a cadet.
It was only recently that he began thinking seriously about a career in the military, according to Forrest, who maintains a 3.7 grade point average at CMHS and is a school letter winner in basketball and baseball.
Forrest credits his younger brother, Sawyer, 14, with inspiring him to apply to West Point.
“My little brother is the military nut,” Forrest said. “He talks about it all the time. That’s all he wants to do and he got me interested in it.”
Forrest also was inspired to apply after one of his friends from school, Cody Nyp, was accepted.
“I’ve always been kind of interested in the military and I like the fact my education is paid for,” he said. “Plus, it’s an honor to go there. They look at academics as well as physical and leadership qualities. There’s a lot to it.”
Unlike many West Point cadets, Forrest has no long, family history of military service. Other than a few cousins, no one in his family has enlisted in any branch of the service.
“I am very proud of his accomplishment. I am proud that he has chosen to serve our country by going into the armed forces in these trying times,” Tad Bartz, Forrest’s father, said. “I give Forrest much credit for getting into West Point. The application process is lengthy, six to eight months, has many requirements as well as deadlines and is pretty much a pain in the neck. He did all of this on his own with no help from me. I’m proud of Forrest twice. I am not only proud of him, I am proud for him.”
The 2016 class at West Point, Tad added, is the most competitive in its history. There are 1150 cadets accepted and there were over 15,000 applications, according to Tad Bartz.
Now that his path is set, however, Forrest intends to make the most of it.
“When I graduate, I’ll be a second lieutenant,” he said. “I plan to make it a career. Then, when I retire from the military, I’ll still be young enough to fall back on my education from West Point and go on to get my master’s or doctorate degree.”
Forrest applied to the prestigious academy last year and only heard that he had been accepted in early February.
“That was a very happy day for me,” he said.
CMHS Principal Anthony Petersen said he was not surprised at Forrest’s acceptance to West Point, considering the sort of student he has been in high school.
“Forrest is definitely one who stands out in a crowd,” Petersen said. “He’s a very bright, respectful young man and a good athlete. He always extends a hand for a handshake and asks you how you’re doing. We’re very proud of him. Getting into West Point is a great honor. He’s a great kid. I wish we had more like him.”
Forrest is the son of Tad Bartz, Tracy Bartz and his stepmother, Sherry Bartz.