By Tom Holmes
Just last Saturday Fenwick High School graduate Jacob Marchetti left for boot camp at the U.S. Military Academy, otherwise known as West Point.
Marchetti, of Forest Park, smiled when he recalled how he learned that he had been accepted. He was visiting his father in North Carolina when his mother called, saying that a package from West Point had arrived with $7 worth of postage on it.
"I figured that they wouldn't spend that much on a letter telling me I had not been accepted." Marchetti laughed. The two of them opened that package together on FaceTime.
Just 14 percent of the young men and women who apply to West Point. Marchetti knew that the application process would be very competitive.
"I knew I was qualified but it's still surreal that I got in," he said. "I like to think that how I conveyed myself in the essay made a difference."
He received the required "nomination"—a necessary qualification from a U.S. representative, senator, vice president or president—from Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th).
Marchetti graduated with honors, participated in Fenwick's STEM and technical competition teams, and was also a part of the math team that won the state championship. He was also honored as an Illinois State Scholar, according to Richard Borsch, the Director of College Counseling at Fenwick.
"Academically Jacob was absolutely terrific," Borsch said.
What Borsch said was at least as impressive as his academic performance is his character. "Part of Fenwick's educational philosophy is that even though you are bright, that doesn't mean that you are better than others," Borsch said. "When you leave here you must use your abilities to help other people."
And that is exactly what Marchetti did during his four years at Fenwick. While in high school, he travelled to Appalachia for three straight summers to build housing and perform service projects in the economically oppressed area. He also has been taking care of residents around the church for three years without pay.
"Anyone who gets into West Point," Borsch concluded, "obviously has a value set that is pretty impressive."
Marchetti's mother, Elizabeth, noted that her son earned the rank of Eagle Scout, an achievement which less than 1 percent of all scouts ever accomplish.
"In scouting he fell in love with the outdoors and nature, and he has a very engineering mind… He loves to discover 'how things work.' He also has always believed in working hard to achieve a goal and is very diligent and persistent, all skills that will serve him well in the military," Elizabeth said.
"He has been a leader, helping the younger scouts. He is very caring and this will help lead at West Point. I think scouts is where his dream began."
Rev. James Hurlbert, Marchetti's pastor at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, added that he has also served as a lector at Mass and was a leader at the Kairos retreat, a faith-based retreat that all graduating Fenwick seniors are required to attend.
Looking ahead to the near future, the new cadet said that after getting his head shaved, he will attend boot camp classes for two weeks on campus. After that Marchetti will take a 12 mile ruck—or, a hike with a ruck sack—to the Camp Buckner Military Reservation, where the experience will be much more physical. They will sleep in little shacks, train in weapons and land navigation, complete obstacle courses and more.
Boot camp will end, and classes will begin in the middle of August. The daily routine, he said, will be to wake up at 6:30 a.m. and stand in formation before breakfast and lunch. Classes will be during the day, and attendance at only two dinners a week will be required because of the announcements that will be made at those times.
During his sophomore year, he will be able to pick his major which he thinks will be mechanical engineering.
When Marchetti explains why he decided to pursue an at least short-term career as an Army officer, he doesn't talk about being a fan of Rambo or super hero movies, nor does he cite a long family lineage of military service.
What he talked about was a sense of duty saying, "It's something I didn't want to leave for someone else to do."
Answer Book 2019
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