Cadet Lt. Nathan Gontarz, of the United States Military Academy, is a "Firstie" -- West Point-speak for a senior.
The 2003 Alden Central High School graduate says he has "always felt the urge to serve, to give a little back. When I was growing up, my parents instilled in me a sense of civic duty."
That doesn't mean life at West Point is easy.
"It's tough and demanding; at the same time, rewarding," said the 21-year-old.
However, "Life as a Firstie is much better then life as a Plebe -- freshman. Each year I earned another promotion and more privileges. I get a legitimate sense of accomplishment whenever I complete a task or whenever I get one step closer to graduation.
"The academics are vigorous, but the instructors are always available to help us learn," he added. "I know of no other institution where the faculty is so focused on students and not their own ambitions. They know in just a bit of time all of the cadets are going to join the profession-of-arms, and they want to invest in the future."
When the Alden native graduates in May, he will "be sent to a school in Arizona to receive additional training." In March, he will have a chance to select his post. As a captain, he receives fully funded graduate school.
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