By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Tupelo High School senior Chandler Craig wanted to attend the Naval Academy from the time he was a freshman.
He influenced a classmate to make a similar choice.
“At first I was interested in a career in engineering, and I was looking for where I could make the biggest difference I could,” said fellow THS senior Grant Thornton. “Chandler talked about the Naval Academy, and the more I found out, the more it seemed like a place that would be good for me.”
The two will attend the Naval Academy together next fall. On Friday, they were among 11 students from Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District honored by U.S. Congressman Alan Nunnelee for their appointment to a military academy.
“I am glad I get to rub shoulders with these fine young men and young women from north Mississippi who are willing to step forward and say I want to serve my country,” Nunnelee said. “When I look at these fine young men and women, I am confident about our future.”
The honorees also included Oxford High’s John Cutler and Patrick “Conrey” Meagher, Lafayette High’s Jacob Roberts and Pontotoc High’s Nathan Tidwell.
Cutler, Meagher and Tidwell also will attend the Naval Academy. Roberts will attend West Point next year.
Tidwell said when he learned in January of his appointment, he felt like it was a calling.
“I was really excited, but also, a great sense of peace came over me because I felt like I was on the path God set out for me,” he said, noting he wanted to both serve his county and attend college.
Meagher will play football at Navy, where his father Patrick also played.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of people help me along the way and had a lot of hard work in the classroom, on the field and around town. It added up to the biggest accomplishment in my life.”
Cutler and Roberts were interested by the engineering and Chinese programs at the Naval Academy and West Point respectively.
“From here in the middle of rural Mississippi, going to one of the greatest colleges in the world, it is amazing to me,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Craig’s early interest in the Naval Academy began with stories of his grandfather’s service.
“I’ve discovered it is a lot bigger deal than I first thought it was,” he said of the appointment.