Summit graduates enter the military |

Summit graduates enter the military

JULIE SUTORsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Reid Williams Sean McClenahan has no fear of push-ups - the Summit High School graduate will pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. Marine this winter.

BRECKENRIDGE – Unlike most of their peers, Summit High School 2004 graduates Sean McCleneghan and Michael Leone won’t be heading off to college this fall.Both young men will pursue a different brand of education by realizing their childhood dreams of serving in the military.”As a child, I always had a dream of flying after hearing my grandfather tell stories about flying in World War II and Vietnam,” said Leone, who will enter the U.S. Air Force in August. “In high school, I thought about it less, because I was so involved in theater, dance and music.”But one day, the Air Force recruiter came, so I went to talk to him, and it brought back all those dreams and fantasies. And now it’s a reality.”This summer, Leone is spending his time on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Marina di Pisa, Italy, with his father, as he does every year. He practices dance on the beach by day and performs at night.

“I have a huge final dance competition I do here every year, and then I’ll go to basic training,” Leone said. “The Air Force is going to be a completely different world, and that’s what excites me about it. I don’t know what to expect.”After basic training in Texas, Leone will spend about two years traveling around the country through Special Forces training.Like Leone, McCleneghan has had his sights fixed on a military career from an early age. He will report to Camp Pendleton Marine Base in San Diego for basic training in December.”It’s been a childhood dream of mine,” McCleneghan said. “The Marines are so well-respected. When a Marine walks into a room, there is just an air about him. He’s looking so sharp in that uniform, and there’s so much honor and respect that goes to that Marine.”Both McCleneghan and Leone see the military as an opportunity to gain skills, opportunities and life experiences they couldn’t get by going straight to college.Leone has aspirations of being a pilot, but hasn’t let go of his love for performing arts.

“I’m definitely still looking forward to getting my degree in music and theater, and I can start going to school immediately after my training. They’ll pay for my college education completely, and that was one big thing that really got my attention,” Leone said. “I have a feeling the Air Force is going to be a career for me. I just found out they have a traveling musical theater company.”Leone added: “I’m going to go with the flow for now and put it in the Lord’s hands.”McCleneghan too, sees the military as a possible career path. He is considering training as an aviation mechanic.”In the military, our schools are well known,” said Air Force Sgt. Rodgerick Cobb. “When you’re looking at gaining employment outside the Air Force, you’ve also got at least four years of experience behind you.”The two young men’s parents are proud of their sons’ decisions, despite the dangers they will likely face.

“I’m very supportive of him. Some of our children need to go into harm’s way for the rest of us,” said McCleneghan’s father, Sam, who served in the Navy. “Hopefully, we train and equip them the best we can to protect themselves as best they can.”I’m more concerned about high school parties and drinking and driving than I am about the military,” he added.Both Leone and McCleneghan feel a greater sense of duty to the United States due to current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”I know that there’s a risk, and I’m willing to accept that risk. Absolutely, I’m nervous, but I’ve grown up as an American and as a patriot. If I see battle, I believe I’ll trust my training and be able to deal with it,” McCleneghan said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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