Two Paonia High School juniors were recently selected to participate in elite summer military programs and experience what life is like in the armed forces. The programs they attended are designed to help applicants in their post-secondary education decisions.
The son of Timothy and Shauna Meilner, Caden Meilner attended the U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar program held June 3-8 at Annapolis, Md., and the West Point Summer Leaders Experience (SLE) held June 10-16 at the United States Military Academy.
"I would love to serve my country," said Meilner, who was inspired to consider the military after giving a speech in English class on his responsibilities to America. "Travel has opened my eyes to what we have here in the U.S. It's such an amazing place."
Each day started with physical training exercises including a 1.3-mile run and station workouts. Participants also competed in intramural football and dodge ball. One of the highlights, said Meilner, was a full-day introduction to military training involving running obstacles, firearms training using blanks, and getting a close look at some of the academy's helicopters.
Meilner said his experience at the U.S. Naval Academy was "the best week of my life. The Navy is a perfect fit." In addition to physical training, Meilner attended workshops on naval architecture, physics and aeronautical engineering, and participated in squad-building exercises. "The facilities are amazing," he added.
Cyrus Malek-Madani, the son of Joseph and Leslie Malek-Madani, attended the U.S. Air Force Academy Summer Seminar at Colorado Springs June 18-23. Malek Madani said this was a great opportunity since he plans to attend a service academy after high school. At the Air Force Academy, days began at 6 a.m. with fitness training exercises and ended sometime after 9 p.m. Throughout the day participants attended briefings on academic, career and athletics, and experienced the academy in classroom settings.
Malek-Madani said he has toured the Air Force Academy before. The campus itself is "beautiful, absolutely the best," and has so much to offer, he said. The physical training was something he hadn't given much thought to, but it turned out to be a highlight of his experience. They had to do everything just right or be reprimanded, he said. Even meals were regimented.
Malek-Madani said he plans to pursue all possible paths to officer training and wants to study biology or another field of the natural sciences.
Malek-Madani and Meilner are both at the top of their class academically and participate in multiple sports.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.