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Academy Grads Look to Future of Service

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 27, 2011 – Thomas Yuhaniak knew when he was just 5 years old what he wanted in life: to become a pilot, then ultimately, an astronaut. But it was when he was in fourth grade, and his family visited the U.S. Naval Academy here during a vacation to Washington, D.C., that Yuhaniak laid eyes on the Freedom 7 space capsule at the academy’s visitor center and sealed his decision to go Navy.

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Thomas Yuhaniak celebrates living out his boyhood dreams at his May 27, 2011, graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Yuhaniak moves on to Naval Flight School at Pensacola, Fla. DOD photo by Donna Miles
  

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Today, Yahaniak moved a step closer to his dream as he joined 1,005 other Naval Academy graduates who received commissions in the Navy and Marine Corps. As a new Navy ensign, Yahaniak is among 225 graduates headed to Naval Flight School at Pensacola, Fla.

“This is always what I have wanted to do,” he said as he prepared to march onto the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to receive his commission and degree in aerospace engineering. Now, he said, his task is to build on the education and leadership experience gained during four years at Annapolis.

“I am going to take it to the fleet and be the best officer I can,” he said.

Nicholas Hanson of Monmouth, N.J., is among 260 members of the Class of 2011 commissioned today into the Marine Corps. It’s a decision Hanson said came easily; his brother is an Army Ranger deployed to Afghanistan’s Logar province, and Hanson hopes to follow his example as a Marine Corps officer.

It’s a calling he said he’s been preparing for, academically as well as mentally. He majored in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies and studied Arabic for the past four years at the Naval Academy. Now, he plans to continue those language studies in Morocco under a State Department scholarship program before deploying to the combat theater.

The biggest lesson Hanson said he learned at the Naval Academy, and that he plans to take to the Corps, is the importance of the unit over self. Individual achievements -- being first in his high school graduating class and its football team’s most valuable player, among them -- fade in importance at the academy, he said.

“After graduation, nobody cares about you as an individual,” he said. “It’s not about you. It never is and never will be about you. It is about those above you and under you and around you.”

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNicholas Hanson of Monmouth, N.J., right, and Chris Aument of Chicago are among 260 members of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2011 commissioned into the Marine Corps. Their academy class graduated May 27, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFamilies and friends pack Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., for graduation and commissioning ceremonies for the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2011, May 27, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMembers of Strike Fighter Squadron 143 based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., conduct a flyover during the graduation and commissioning ceremonies for the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2011, May 27, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Naval academy cadets take the oath of enlistment during the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony in Annapolis, Md., May 27, 2011. DOD photo by Cherie Cullen   
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