Two local graduates earn five military-school appointments

Andrew Duff, left, and Cody Iden have both been accepted into multiple military academies. Duff, a Grand Junction High School graduate, has decided to attend the U.S. Naval Academy while Iden, a graduate of Fruita Monument, will go to the U.S. Army’s West Point.

It was a chance meeting at an unexpected place.

At about this same time last year, Cody Iden was walking down a hallway on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and passed someone who looked exactly like a guy he knew from Grand Junction.

“Andrew?” Iden asked.

Andrew Duff turned around.

It had been nearly nine years since the boys played on the same Little League team. Since those childhood days, they had attended different schools and made new friends. They had no clue the other wanted to attend a military academy. Yet, here they were in New York, realizing for the first time that they shared a common goal.

Fast forward a year. No longer do Iden and Duff, both 18, share that boyhood dream of acceptance into a military academy. Now the recent high school graduates are mere weeks away from beginning what may be the four toughest years of their lives, both mentally and physically.

In remarkable fashion, considering the exclusive nature of this country’s military academies, Iden, a Fruita Monument High School graduate, was accepted into three, the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy and Military Academy. Duff, a Grand Junction High School graduate, was accepted into two, the Naval Academy and Military Academy. (He did not complete the United States Air Force Academy application.)

Iden reports to West Point at 9:30 a.m. Monday, June 27, smitten with the history of the U.S. Army’s academy, and the idea that maybe he’ll become a helicopter pilot.

Duff reports to the U.S. Naval Academy at 7 a.m. Thursday, June 30, intrigued with Annapolis, Md., and the idea he could one day work on a nuclear submarine.

The boys had to formally decline acceptances they did not want, which potentially opened a slot for another student.

Sipping ice water on a recent sunny day, Iden and Duff agreed that they are proud to have gained acceptance into the service academy of their choice. However, the smiles and pride were short-lived.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Iden said.

What lies ahead for the boys is four years of limit-testing work in the classroom and in the field. Each academy requires its students to take a rigorous course load while simultaneously training for military life after school. They will be broken down as individuals and built back up as a team. They will be tired. They will hurt. They can’t wait.

“Cody told me if he could leave tomorrow, he would go,” said Hope Iden, Cody’s mother.

Likewise, Adrienne Duff knows her son also is eager to leave Grand Junction.

As the boys head across the country, their mothers will stay in Grand Junction to field difficult phone calls, put together tasty care packages and just support their sons. It’s what all the military sites have told them to do. It’s pretty much all they can do.

“If I didn’t think he could handle it, I think it would be harder on me,” Hope Iden admitted.

Each mother has watched her son grow more interested in the military-academy life through the arduous application process. Each academy requires a separate application that includes personal essays, assessments of physical fitness and overall health, in addition to personal interviews and a U.S. Congress member’s nomination.

The boys also had to prove their academic and leadership potential through an application, detailing their grades, test scores, athletic participation and extracurricular activities.

Iden graduated with a 4.1 grade point average and 29 composite ACT score. Duff had a 4.2 GPA and 32 ACT score.

“It was a heck of a lot of work” Duff said of the application process that began for each last summer.

Hope Iden and Adrienne Duff paid attention to deadlines and encouraged their sons through the process. But that’s all.

After graduation, the boys — young men by then — will serve a minimum five years of active duty as payment for their education.

At Iden’s recent commencement, when all Fruita Monument students off to the military stood for recognition, a parent said it would be awful to be a father or mother of a military kid. Hope Iden overheard it.

“I know some people think I’m crazy, but how can you squash your kid’s dream?” she asked.

Likewise, Adrienne Duff isn’t throwing a parade about her son’s decision to leave Colorado and be a part of the U.S. Navy. However, like Hope Iden, Adrienne Duff understands her son is ready for a new challenge and wants it to be at the Naval Academy. Andrew Duff has an innate sense of leadership and patriotism, his mother said.

Still, the mothers do find it a little unbelievable that their boys followed a similar path from Little League gloves to military appointments, particularly their diligence to get accepted into more than one academy.

It’s “way cool,” Adrienne Duff said.


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