Four Wilton grads head out to serve their country
WILTON — Leadership and brotherhood. That’s what four 2020 Wilton High School graduates are looking for as they plan to enter ROTC programs when they head to college later this summer.
Anthony Cascello, Karl Pfeiffer, Ben Leung and Harrison Tucker have signed up with different branches of the armed forces.
The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a college program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities across the country. Students apply for a scholarship to cover their education costs and participate in ROTC programs that prepare them to serve as officers in their chosen branch of service after graduation.
Anthony Cascello has chosen the Air Force ROTC program at George Washington University. He plans to study engineering and aerospace is one of his interests. He is looking to play a more supportive role in the service.
“If you go into it for guns blazing, to fight people, that’s a bad mindset,” he said in an interview last week. “You’re there to defend the country. In the Air Force you’re always supporting somebody. There’s the brotherhood, really. There’s a huge bonding that you don’t get in other areas.”
George Washington University has a cross-town agreement with Howard University and Cascello will undergo training on both campuses.
“At graduation you get your ‘butter bar,’ the gold brass bar that signifies second lieutenant,” he said. Then he must fulfill a four-year commitment to the service.
Acknowledging that the military is not a popular option among his fellow students, Cascello said nevertheles he had been thinking about it since he started high school. He looked at the other branches and chose the Air Force because it is more technology-based.
“I am more interested in things in the air and things in space,” he said.
He also looks forward to the military as a career.
“After those four years, if I’m not happy I will do something else. I feel very highly about it being a career,” he said. “I hope that’s the case.
“Flying, I would love to have a go at it as a career,” the former high school chess club member said. Options for a military assignment, he said, “would be intelligence, systems officer — those are the jobs I look forward to.”
It might not be surprising this is the path Cascello has chosen. He’s majoring in engineering, he said, because “I always liked working with my hands. My dad and I built rockets, constructed kites and flew remote-controlled and model planes.”
Karl Pfeiffer and Harrison Tucker are both heading south to join up with the Army ROTC. Pfeiffer will be part of the Crimson Tide at the University of Alabama and Tucker will call Vanderbilt University home for the next four years.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be in the Army, either after high school or later in life,” Pfeiffer said. When he learned about the ROTC, “it sounded good for me. Get a college education and then pursue my dream.”
He was attracted to the Army because, unlike the Navy or the Air Force, it has more areas of specialization, said Pfeiffer, who plans to major in business.
He chose Alabama because of its large ROTC program. “I went to look at it. It’s a really awesome campus and I fell in love with the school,” he said.
“Right now, I want to try and go into the infantry division of the Army, maybe Ranger school,” said Pfeiffer, who co-captained Wilton’s soccer team in his junior and senior years. “It’s more physical than sitting down in an office and that appeals to me.”
Pfeiffer is not sure if the Army will be a career for him.
“I don’t like the idea of coming out of college and not knowing what I want to do … it’ll help you find a career to pursue different paths.
“I don’t know what the future has in store,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent either way.” But serving his country is important to him.
Harrison Tucker’s Army path will be different since he plans to go to medical school and will get an exemption on his post-graduation commitment.
Although his father and grandfather served in the Navy, Tucker felt the Army was a better fit.
“I thought the leadership opportunity was really good. I’ll be a second lieutenant right out of college,” he said.
The program at Vanderbilt is “a really tight-knit community with only 70 cadets. I’ll get to know everyone.”
He also liked he environment around the Tennessee school: warmer climate, good food, great music.
“It’s going to be a fun four years. I hope to make the most of it.”
When he’s done, his goal is to enter medical school and pursue a surgical career.
“After school, I can stick to the National Guard but I’m leaning toward active duty where I would have a full experience of teamwork,” he said. He would like to be stationed in Hawaii or Germany where he can treat wounded soldiers in a military hospital.
Ben Leung’s father went to the U.S. Naval Academy, but Ben felt he wanted a more normal college experience and that’s why he’s going to the University of Wisconsin. But he doesn’t want to be a sailor, he’s headed for the Marines.
His father’s seven years as a Marine was an inspiration. “It was a draw to that branch, the few, the proud. Being part of a smaller group is something I’m really drawn to,” he said.
At college, his ROTC training will be geared to the Marine Corps, which he sees an an all-around branch, serving on land and sea as well as in the air.
“That’s cool to me. It’s a brotherhood. I see it with my dad and his buddies. There’s a sense of pride. That’s something that drew me to it,” he said.
After graduation, Leung is not sure what his specialty will be. “Between junior and senior year I will go to officer candidate school and that’s where I’ll earn my spot,” he said.
“My goal would be in some form of combat. I’ll figure that out down the road. I just hope to make a difference, be a good leader, make an impact and serve my country.”
Leung will enter Wisconsin as an undeclared major but he is leaning toward environmental science. He doesn’t expect to make the Marines his career, “but things could change,” he said.
Something he would like to see change is how the military as a career option is underrepresented at Wilton High School.
“The military is very under-promoted at Wilton High School for post-college plans,” he said. “Younger students should check out ROTC or the service academies. It’s a great path and you can do something beneficial for your country as well.”