FORT LORAMIE — A 2022 Fort Loramie High School graduate is combining his desire to serve his country, furthering his education and his love of sports into one location: West Point.
Gavin Kemper, son of Dean and Polly Kemper, received his appointment to West Point from U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH.
“I’ve always had an interest in the military,” said Kemper. “I thought I’d go to college instead and continue processing in track.”
Kemper, who was on the track team in high school, said he was contacted by the West Point track coach about furthering his career at the academy.
“I was able to combine all of them at West Point,” he said.
After graduation, Kemper left the village to attend Army basic training at the end of June for six weeks. After completing basic training, he reported to West Point the following week to begin his academic career.
“At the start (of school) it was overwhelming,” said Kemper. “You have all the military stuff we do on top of academics. Then I have track practice after school.”
Track, he said, is a year round commitment.
Kemper has also adjusted from his small town life in Fort Loramie to the hustle and bustle of West Point.
“There are so many people,” said Kemper. “I’ve gone to a big city from the middle of nowhere. I’m surrounded by so many different people. It’s been eyeopening. Everyone is forced to be best friends.”
His days at the academy are regimented down to the minute. He gets up at 5:50 a.m. and he and his fellow plebes (freshmen) do chores such as taking out the trash or mop floors. At 6:55 a.m., the report for formation and then go to breakfast.
After the chores, the cadets participate in “calling minutes,” where everyone stands on the wall and one person says how many minutes are left until formation. The underclassmen tell the upperclassmen how many minutes for formation are and what the meal is.
Classes begin at 7:30 a.m. and there are only 15 students in each class. They then have a lunch formation before being dismissed for lunch. Classes start up after lunch and when classes end, Kemper heads to track practice at 3:30 p.m. Practice lasts between two to three hours, he said.
While in class, he said, one person calls the room to attention. Then there’s a uniform inspection and they all salute their instructor.
“I’ve had to do that a couple of times,” said Kemper. “It was difficult for me to do at first. But I’m coming out of my shell. The things I’m forced to do I wouldn’t have been able to do in high school.
“I can now yell in front of a group of people. By the end of basic training it seemed natural,” he said.
Then it’s time for dinner and he’s back in his room at 7 p.m., where he takes a shower and begins his homework. He said he tries to get to bed by 11 p.m.
Basic training, said Kemper, helped prepare him for daily schedule he has to maintain at school.
“I like it (routine),” he said. “You have to follow what they say. You know when you have to have something done, so it’s easy to do. You know the consequences if you don’t get it done.”
Kemper has participate in one track meet since the school year began. He placed third in the pole vault.
“I’ve got new coaches and new teammates,” he said. “The indoor season is just starting and the outdoor season is in the fall.
“Everyone here is better than you are. In high school, I was one of the best. Now I look at my teammates and learn from them (to be better),” he said.
There were 1,200 people in basic training for the freshman class at West Point. One hundred of them didn’t make it through basic training. Between their sophomore and junior years, the cadets will sign an affirmation, which means they will commit seven years to the Army in exchange for education and training at West Point.
He said there are 15 students from foreign countries enrolled at West Point.
Kemper said being away from home for an extended period of time was hard.
“It’s not like being on a two-week vacation with a friend,” he said. “The first time I was home was great. It was hard to go back but you get used to it.”
His mom said basic training was hard because they had no contact with him.
“Facetime is wonderful,” she said.
Kemper said he has learned a lot about himself since he’s graduated from high school.
“I’ve learned how I can push myself,” he said. “I’m smarter than I thought I was. Academically, I’ve surprised myself.”
Kemper’s siblings — Mason, Ty and Meg — all support his decision to go to West Point. Mason just graduated from Bowling Green State University. Ty was excited because he and Gavin shared the same room. Meg was the saddest, said mom. The two siblings are close and played a lot of volleyball together.
Kemper said he was ready for the holiday break. He was able to see many of his high school friends who have been away at college. He was also able to relax and not have to worry about academics as finals were over before he came home.
“There’s no one here telling me I can’t talk when I’m outside,” said Kemper. “There’s a lot of rules we have to follow.
“I enjoy being there (West Point),” he said. “I’ve made so many new friends.”
When he returns to West Point next week, Kemper will have a new set of roommates.
“We change rooms and roommates at the end of each semester,” he said. For the first semester, he was in a first floor room. Next semester he’ll be on the third floor.
Kemper is a member of the Fly Fishing Club at West Point. They took a trip to Long Island to fish.
“They provided the poles,” he said. “That’s the most fun I’ve had while there”
He also attended the Army Navy football game in Philadelphia. His parents also attended the game.
“We (cadets) marched out onto the field before the game. We rushed the field when we won in double overtime.”
When the school year ends, he’ll be attending training for the first three weeks. He’ll also be making a decision on what he’ll be doing the rest of the summer.