Six county students graduate from U.S. military academies

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CLAY COUNTY – Former high school seniors David Ayers, David Detwiler, Logan Opp, JP Pyle, Will Sarsen and Reese Gillan have graduated from some of the most rigorous academies in the world.

Ayers, of Middleburg High, and Detwiler, Opp and Pyle, all from Fleming Island High, recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Sarsen, of Fleming Island, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Gillan, also from Fleming Island, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Each of these students have taken wildly different paths toward their careers after having last been seen together in the summer of 2016.

During that summer that the six students attended a banquet held in their honor by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) who had nominated each of them to their respective academies. The students saw their academic paths diverge after that banquet, each attending different academies and training camps for what they foresaw in their futures.

Graduation ceremonies were still held for the students, but COVID-19 ensured those graduations would be different from what previous graduates experienced. There were masks, social distancing and lower capacities involved this time around. The USAFA held its graduation in April, six weeks sooner than originally planned. The USNA held its ceremonies in smaller groups over a total of two weeks. This was to ensure that students could return to the academy with time to finalize their commissioning and gather their belongings.

West Point’s graduation ceremony occurred three weeks later than originally scheduled. All Cadets were sent home after finishing the academy but brought back to the campus to be tested for the virus and quarantined for 14 days leading up to the ceremony.

Things were different for each student in their own way but one thing the coronavirus couldn’t prevent is the addition of six new Clay County military officers ready to lead the way.

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