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Two Vernon Parish students ‘aim for the stars’ with service academy appointments

LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) – Central Louisiana’s appointments to the country’s prestigious military service academies have not slowed down this year. Two Leesville students have now joined that list, alongside Nell White of Pineville and Arthur Lavalais of Peabody High School, after receiving nominations from Rep. Mike Johnson (R-4th Congressional District).

“American military academies take the best of our students and they train the next generation of leaders,” Johnson said. “So it’s very gratifying to know that so many of them will come out of central and southern Louisiana. We know what we’re made of here, and it’s gratifying when the whole country can see that.

Dillon McRae, a graduate of Leesville High School, will join the US Air Force Academy, where she plans to major in astronautical engineering. McRae hopes to one day join the Air Force’s work in space, striving to secure a spot in the competitive Space Force program.

“I like to say that my job at Intel, and especially with satellites, is to keep America’s skies safe, higher than we even thought possible when the Air Force was founded,” said said McRae. “Also, within intelligence, it’s a way to protect those soldiers who are on the ground, to protect those airmen who are in the flights […] it warns [the] loss of American lives, and also prevent these attacks before they even happen.

It wasn’t the first career she envisioned, but she quickly fell in love with the Air Force’s mission and its ability to do something outside of herself, while helping others see how they can also serve.

“I’m not, I guess, what you think of when you think of the military academy,” McRae explained. “I really hope to change the view that the military has to be super, or people in the military have to be super stoic, and they have to be just that way, and super uniform, because that’s not me. .”

McRae was involved in many extracurricular activities at school, including drama, yearbook photography, track and field, and tennis, as well as student government as class president. She credits her high school’s various programs and staff for helping her through the nomination process.

Meanwhile, Terrence Carter will be pacing the West Point campus to become a duty officer. He graduated from Pickering High School in 2021 but has just completed 10 months at West Point Preparatory Academy.

Carter said his time volunteering at Veterans Place in downtown Leesville inspired him to pursue a career in military service.

“I met a retired colonel who stopped in a wheelchair, and he talked about his experiences with West Point, because he was a 1972 graduate, and listening to his experiences, I found a new love for a place that I never even thought of at first,” Carter explained. “Because, whenever I talk to older gentlemen or older ladies, I look through their eyes and you can see their eyes light up as they talk or reminisce. That’s what drew me to West Point.

At Pickering, Carter was a high-achieving track and field athlete. He received offers at Division 1 and 2 schools, such as Texas A&M and LSU, where he could have attended ROTC programs and enlisted after graduation. In the end, Carter wanted more.

“What my dad told me to do is start at the top instead of starting at the bottom, so might as well aim for the stars and aim for West Point,” Carter said.

Both McRae and Carter will leave their academies as commissioned officers ready to serve as they know best.

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