Letters of recommendations from politicians, a physical assessment by a medical review board and impressive academic standing — those are some of the qualifications Chaska students had to fulfill to be accepted into military schools.
This year Chaska High School has two students in its 347 graduating class going to service academies. Ethan Jackman will be going to the U.S. Air Force Academy and John Starkey will be going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after graduation on June 7.
Overall, there are 10 students going into the service, according to Chaska High School graduation documents. This follows a recent trend of students choosing to serve their country.
Last year, there were 11 students who went into the military; 2017, seven students; 2016, one student; 2015, nine students; and 2014, five students.
“Ethan is very smart, he’s been a hard worker since elementary school. He’s usually at the top of his class,” Starkey said, of Jackman. “He has a great character with who he is as a person. His drive and determination is going to help him in the future more than anything.”
Starkey and Jackman have been friends since they attended Clover Ridge Elementary, recalled Ethan’s mother Lynn Jackman. She had recently come across a World War II history project they worked on together in middle school.
“I think they’re both very much achievers for sure,” she said, adding they are both leaders within the student body.
Jackman was captain of Chaska’s wrestling team and on varsity football. Starkey played a sport every season and was a star on the track and field, hockey and cross country teams. Jackman will go on to play football for the Air Force and Starkey will compete in track and field at West Point.
For Starkey, the idea of serving his country came early in life. Both his grandfathers had served, one in the navy and the other as a radio operator. His great grandfather served in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.
“I have a long family heritage in the military and I wanted to compete in track and field. I found it was the best combination to become an officer and also compete,” Starkey said.
Jackman decided to serve later in high school.
He credits fellow football alumni Justin Arnold, who now attends Minnesota State University, Mankato, with helping him make the big decision.
He told Jackman that he needed to consider whether he would attend a college if he wasn’t playing football.
“It was after that I thought, I’d go to the Air Force Academy if it weren’t for football, because it’s a great education, great opportunities and you’re set for life.”
For parents Mark and Lynn Jackman, the idea of their only son going to the Air Force Academy made them nervous, but after meeting with coaches and learning more information they became more settled with the idea.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for him, not a lot of people get this opportunity,” Lynn Jackman said, noting she and Mark are planning on traveling to Colorado for football games. “We’re just really proud of him.”
With Jackman going to the Air Force and Starkey going to West Point, there will be a bit of a rivalry between the two.
Jackman hopes to return the Commander-in-Chief trophy, a football award among the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy, back to his school.
He recalled an interview he had with a West Point graduate as part of his application process. The interviewer asked him when the trophy would be back at the Air Force Academy.
“I said in the next four years,” Jackman said.