By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
Patrick Sherrod was very happy.
He had just checked online and discovered he was going to receive an ROTC Scholarship that would pay for either tuition or room and board at the college of his choice.
Who wouldn’t be happy with that?
Then he decided to check a different online portal. He found his name on another list and his level of happiness soared even higher.
Now he knew he had received his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get into West Point,” Patrick admitted. “When I first saw my name on the list, there was some disbelief. I was certainly surprised, but then I got real excited.”
And so did his parents, Sean and Jamiee Sherrod.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them that happy,” Patrick noted.
In less than two weeks – July 16 – Patrick will report to the academy, located along the banks of the Hudson River about 50 miles north of New York City. West Point, which was established in 1802, is home to approximately 4,300 Army cadets that have a motto of “Duty-Honor-Country.”
Patrick was born and raised in Effingham, graduating from EHS in May. He is one of four children. He has one sister, Paige; and two brothers, Gavin and Wade.
Patrick was an honor student throughout high school. He was a member of the Student Council and served as Class President during his senior year. He was also a leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, ran cross country and played baseball.
“I had a lot of teachers help me through the years,” Patrick said. “Academically, I feel like I’m prepared. West Point is really tough. Nobody goes there and breezes through it. I know I will need to work hard.”
The 18-year-old will enter West Point as a Cadet Candidate.
“The average ACT score is about 30,” Patrick explained. “Mine was just a little below that, so I will attend prep school the first year.”
According to Patrick, there are about 20,000 young men and women that at least open an application for the service academy. Of that group, around 12,000 complete the application, 3,000 are nominated for an appointment and approximately 1,200 accepted.
“I feel honored to be selected,” Patrick noted. “I felt honored being nominated. It’s an awesome feeling.”
But it took a while to get to this point.
He first learned about West Point on a family trip. His grandparents live in New York and his family goes for a visit every year at Easter. When he was in junior high, his parents took him on a trip to tour West Point. A few years later, he went again, but this time, his father set an appointment for him to meet with an official at the academy.
“I liked the environment and the culture there from the beginning,” Patrick said. “This will set a good, solid foundation for my future. I might make the Army my career, but I haven’t decided that for sure. If I don’t, having West Point on my resume will certainly help.”
Patrick applied to several colleges and was leaning toward the University of Illinois if the opportunity to go to West Point didn’t materialize.
The actual application process began with a meeting with Congressman John Shimkus. A congressional appointment is required to be considered for any of the service academies.
“Mr. Shimkus helped a lot,” Patrick recalled. “He encouraged me to apply for all the service academies. He said that would show the selection committee that I really want to serve.”
The process is a lengthy one. There is information to gather, three essays to write and letters of recommendation to send as well. In addition, Patrick took the ACT test numerous times, trying to improve his score; and the Physical Fitness test five times. He said his baseball coach, Chris Fleener, helped him with that.
“The whole process took a lot of hard work, but it paid off,” Patrick said.
And more hard work is in his immediate future when he reports for three weeks of basic training.
“They really encourage you to arrive physically fit,” Patrick explained. “So I’ve been training pretty hard. I even bought a pair of combat boots so I could get use to running in them, plus get them worn in. You have to be able to run two miles in under 15 minutes.”
Which shouldn’t be difficult for this former long-distance runner. He was able to cover the two-mile distance in 12 to 13 minutes in high school.
Patrick has also been doing pull-ups, sit-ups and plenty of swimming. Basic training also includes a swimming survival class.
“I know it’s going to be tough,” he admitted. “I imagine there will be someone screaming in my ear a lot. But in the end, all the hard work will definitely pay off.”
Classes begin in mid-August. Since Patrick is in prep school, he will not need to declare a major for about a year and a half. As of right now, he is seriously considering legal studies, but noted that could change in the next 18 months.
After graduating from West Point, Patrick will be required to serve at least five years in the Army. After that, he’s not real sure. He’s certainly considering a career in the service, but also understands that’s a decision that he won’t have to make for another 10 years and that a lot can happen during that time.
For right now, he’s focused on basic training and his first year at the military academy.
“I’m a little nervous, which is probably normal,” Patrick said. “But I’m also excited and ready to go.”