When Seth Quackenbush and Samuel Martin were attending Providence Christian Academy as grade school students and playing Little League baseball together, little did anyone know what their future would hold.
They went their separate ways in middle school, but life has come full circle as the two lifelong friends head to West Point July 1 as U.S. Army Academy cadets.
“We both went our separate ways in middle school and didn’t hear much, but we have a mutual friend that tells us all that’s going on,” Quackenbush said. “When I mentioned West Point, he said, ‘Oh yeah. Samuel is trying to get in too.’”
A military career was something they both started considering early in their respective high school careers. Samuel went to Lexington Christian and Seth attended Scott County High School.
“I started looking at it 9th grade, mainly West Point but also considered the Naval Academy,” Martin said. “My brother, in his freshman year of college at UK, their common experience reading book was ‘The Unforgiving Minute,’ which is by a West Point grad who goes on to be a Rhodes Scholar and that got me interested.”
Quackenbush, son of Eric and Ann Quackenbush, said he wasn’t sure what triggered his interest in a military academy, but it started in sixth grade.
“I have always been interested in the military and the soldier’s life. My dad was in the Navy, and he always said if he had to do it over again he would go for an officer’s position and that got me thinking about the academies,” Quackenbush said. “He enlisted right out of high school. He said don’t enlist. He would have been supportive if I had enlisted, but he has seen the kind of jobs you have to do as an enlistee.”
Martin’s grandfather on his mother’s side was drafted during Korea, he said. His parents are Carol Ann and Craig Martin.
“We report July 1 and that kicks off our 47 months of study,” Quackenbush said. “We do have basic training until the academic year starts. You have a very structured year and everyone basically takes the same classes and you have not declared your major. On top of that, you are doing military trainings.”
New recruits, or plebes, have to follow strict traditions, he said. They can’t talk outside and they have to cup their hands when they walk outside.
Martin may focus on studying military history, he said, while Quackenbush said nuclear engineering will be his area of study. Martin said he would have gone to UK if he had not gotten into West Point and Quackenbush would have attended North Carolina State.
“I’m excited, but nervous,” Martin said. “I think the newness and being away from home will be the hardest part and just being homesick. It will definitely help knowing someone is there that I know.”
“I’m the same way. I know there will be a lot yelling especially this summer,” Quackenbush added.
Both cadet recruits said their families are excited and supportive, and while they have been active in sports, they’ll be working hard to prepare themselves for basic training.
“They are excited without a doubt. The past couple of weeks they have been researching what I can do, what I can’t, when I can come home and trying to get me and themselves ready for my departure, “ Quackenbush said. “They are excited about this opportunity. A little nervous about what the future holds but also very supportive.
“My grandmother years ago said she wanted to live long enough to see me get in. And I had to get in to make her happy.”
“They have been supportive,” Martin said. “I don’t think it is what my mom may have picked. But we have gone to a couple of events put on by the Association of Graduates, and they are the nicest people and I think that helped my mom. And my grandfather is very happy.”
Steve MCClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.