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President Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” For nearly 250 years, America has been blessed because from each new generation of Americans have come leaders and warfighters who have not only protected freedom and liberty on their watch, but have helped ensure those pillars of American democracy are preserved and strengthened for those to whom they’ve passed the torch of freedom.

South Dakota has been home to many of these leaders over the years – it still is today – and I’m humbled to play a small role each year in helping South Dakota’s future leaders take the next step in life by nominating them to one of the service academies throughout the country, including the Military Academy, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and Merchant Marine Academy. Any South Dakotan who meets the requirements (age, marital status, etc.) can apply for a nomination through my office.

There are many well-known leaders and pioneers in their field who graduated from one of America’s service academies. Astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who both flew to the moon, graduated from the Military Academy, as did U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who I’m fortunate to serve with in the U.S. Senate, graduated from the Naval Academy. Generations of other Americans who went on to serve in countless other fields, including business, academia, and athletics, have all gone through the ranks of one academy or another.

If you’re interested in beginning your career at a service academy, now is the time to act. You can find more information on my website,, under the “services” tab. Once there, you’ll be able to determine if you’re eligible to apply. You can also write, email, or call any of my offices for more information or to discuss this opportunity with a member of my staff.

The class of 2018 has already been selected, but the deadline to apply for the class of 2019 is on October 31, 2017, which is right around on the corner. I’ll review all of the applicants and will announce my selections early next year.

The men and women who choose to pursue this path deserve our respect and gratitude, and those who are selected will have their names etched among some of the most prominent leaders our nation has known. I want to thank all of the young South Dakotans in advance who will consider this opportunity, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.