By Lisa K. Morgan
Pella — During high school they were classmates and teammates on the football team. Now they are comrades of a different sort.
Brandon Zwank and Brett Bogaard are both Pella natives and graduated with the Pella Community High School class of 2010. During high school they were close friends off the field and great teammates on the football field. Following high school graduation, life often takes friends in different directions. This was no different for Zwank and Bogaard. But what makes their stories interesting is that while their paths were different, they were also similar.
Brandon Zwank, son of Michelle Zwank and Brad Zwank, had no family history of military service, but as he considered options for his life post-high school, he knew he wanted to serve his country. He researched all three major branches of the military. Because his academics were strong, he went a step further and applied at all three of the military academies. In the end the one that stuck out was the oldest, the United States Military Academy – West Point.
Brett Bogaard, son of Randy and Hazel Bogaard, also had no family history of military service. He started to consider it when the Track Coach from the United States Naval Academy began recruiting him. Like Zwank, Bogaard had strong academics and, rather than simply enlisting, he was accepted into the Naval Academy. Bogaard said part of his reason for selecting the Navy was, “that it seemed like it had the most options [for careers].”
Day 1, they both said to themselves, “What did I do?” As time went on they came to realize the necessity of the structure. A lot of it has to do with so many people coming from so many different places, with such different backgrounds. The structure provides a common ground.
“The mission of the U.S. Military Academy is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, and Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” (http://www.usma.edu/SitePages/Home.aspx) Cadet Zwank said he learned the value of initiative and trust during his time at West Point. He graduated May 28, 2014. While at West Point, he concentrated his studies in Mechanical Engineering. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army within the Ordnance branch and leaves August 7 for Fort Lee, Virginia where he will report for his first assignment. Ultimately Zwank’s goal is to be part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
The U.S. Naval Academy is a four-year military service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be professional officers in the Naval service. Midshipmen learn from military and civilian instructors and participate in intercollegiate varsity sports and extracurricular activities. In addition to a rigorous academic program, they also study subjects like leadership, ethics, small arms, military drill, seamanship and navigation, tactics, naval engineering, weapons and military law. Midshipmen also train at naval bases and on ships in the fleet every summer. Upon graduation, midshipmen earn a Bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 25 different subject majors and will go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding service as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.
Navy Ensign Bogaard said during his time at the Academy, “my perspective (on life) changed.” Boogard also ran track all four years. Navy Ensign left Friday, June 20 to fly back to Annapolis, Maryland. From there he will drive to Pensacola, Florida where he will begin flight training as his ultimate goal is to be a pilot for the Navy.
While in some sense it seems these young men got their college educations for free, in reality it is not without some cost. The cost is paid back with time. Second Lieutenant Zwank will serve as an active member of the Army for five years followed by three in the reserves. Navy Ensign Bogaard will serve a total of seven years, with two of those being in Aviation training.
Both young men had some words of wisdom for high schoolers today that came out of the time they spent at their respective academies. Zwank said, “Don’t let difficulty deter you. Reframe your view of failure.” Bogaard said, “Don’t sweat the little things. If you focus on the things you can affect you have a lot to worry about anyway without focusing on things you cannot affect.”