Local high school graduates off to West Point, Annapolis | News | Palo Alto Online |


Local high school graduates off to West Point, Annapolis

Gunn's Grace Hamilton, Menlo's Kevin Flaherty took different paths to military choice

Grace Hamilton reported Monday to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Kevin Flaherty began his "plebe summer" Thursday at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

But the two recent high school graduates, from Los Altos Hills and Atherton respectively, couldn't be more different in the paths they took to their commissions in the nation's elite military schools.

For Flaherty, who graduated last month from Menlo School, following his father and brother into the U.S. Marine Corps has been a lifelong goal. "I always sort of knew I wanted to go into the military," said Flaherty, whose grandfathers also served -- one in the U.S. Army, the other in the U.S. Navy.

For Hamilton, who was a swimmer at Gunn High School, the choice was anything but planned.

"It was not a lifelong dream or interest or anything like that," said her father, Tim Hamilton, a software executive. As an active West Point cadet, Grace Hamilton herself was not available for an interview.

Like many of her fellow swimmers, Hamilton received a recruiting letter from Army swim coach Mickey Wender during her junior year at Gunn, her father said. Later, she visited the West Point campus.

"I expected her to come back and say, 'That's not for me,'" Hamilton said. "But she came back and said: 'I'm going. That's where I'm going.'

"We said: 'Grace, that's really hard to get into. You should have a Plan B,' but -- flash forward -- she didn't apply anywhere else. Her Plan B was West Point Prep School," a separate institution that prepares students for the U.S. Military Academy.

This week Hamilton and his wife, Lynn, accompanied their only daughter, the oldest of their four children, to West Point.

"They put us in a gymnasium at 6:30 a.m. with 40 cadets and their families at a time, gave a little speech and said, 'You have 90 seconds to say goodbye to your kid,'" Hamilton said.

"Twelve hours later, at 6:30, there was a parade and oath ceremony where they take an oath of service to the Constitution.

"They marched across the parade ground, and we could see Grace in the distance, in uniform, marching, saluting. It was unbelievable, amazing. They turned them into soldiers in one day."

The Hamiltons won't be able to see Grace -- or contact her, except by U.S. mail -- until the end of basic training Aug. 14, when they plan to visit.

Flaherty, an Eagle Scout, honor student and varsity football player at Menlo, was to report Thursday to the academy for the two-month summer program.

Late Wednesday afternoon he appeared relaxed, in blazer and necktie, in his Atherton home. His older brother Brian, who is about to enter his fourth year at Annapolis, also was home on break.

Flaherty said he was unstressed by last-minute packing because all the necessary gear would be issued to him once he arrived at the Naval Academy.

Unlike Hamilton, Flaherty did apply to other colleges -- 10 of them, in fact -- but, once he heard he would be commissioned, the decision was made. "There wasn't really any debate in my mind," he said.

He's given plenty of thought to the military service commitment -- and likely deployment to war zones -- that will come after his four years of college, he said.

"Iraq or Afghanistan -- that's one of the things you have to think about when you're applying because you will do that upon graduation," he said. "I consider myself ready for it, or I will be in four years."

The academy carries a minimum requirement, following graduation, of five years of active duty, plus an additional four years in the reserves, he said.

Hamilton said he thought his daughter, in her initial visit to West Point, was drawn by the notion of military service.

"Part of what she fell in love with was the idea of service, and to do something bigger than going to one of the UCs and to grad school," he said. "That really appealed to her. She saw the pride that those people have in what they're doing and that kind of higher calling of service, and she just really latched onto that."

Regarding his military choice -- not a well-trod path from Menlo School -- Flaherty said he got respectful curiosity from his friends, who are going on to such places as Southern Methodist University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan or Brigham Young University.

"Everyone was supportive," he said. "There were a lot of questions. There's sort of a mystery gray area around the academies."

Flaherty and Hamilton were two of 16 Peninsula residents nominated to the service academies by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. Of the 16, six were chosen by the academies.

"I receive many requests each year, and we take great care in choosing nominees," Eshoo said.

"The young men and women who have been appointed will make our district and our country proud."

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Like this comment
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Congrats to both, I wish you the best of luck moving forward in your education and careers. The dedication and commitment you have made is admirable and honorable.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 2, 2010 at 8:26 am

Congratulations to both, but how sad. I can't imagine choosing to be part of the military machine with so many other options available to you.

Like this comment
Posted by Army Officer
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm


palo alto mom. We are not a military machine. We are Americans serving a higher cause. We are a reflection of the values and experiences of the American people past and present.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Palo Alto Mom, all the other options are available because some people put their bodies on line to defend those options.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Congrats to both students and their families - what a fine accomplishment. I am particularly struck by the story of the young lady who surprised her family by loving West Point - a good example of the wonderful ways our kids can amaze us.

PA Mom - I feel sad for you that you don't appreciate the values and reasoning behind these young people's choices. I do not come from a military family, but I value the service they provide and the ideals that they represent, which are among the highest I can think of. Independence Day is a great time to reflect on that, in fact.

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Palo Alto mom, I also feel sad - for you. These young people who chose and were appointed to our military academies value our countries heritage, our ideals, our dreams, our values. and our Constitution. This is a great country. Millions want to come here, few want to leave. God bless them both.

Like this comment
Posted by CVC
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Congratulations to the Hamilton family!!!!!!

Thanks Palo Alto Online for writing this article.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Reading US history, we have fought the same war over and over again, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan, etc. We send our best and brightest children to fight wars we can not win and should not be fighting. Sometimes we are serving "a higher cause", often we are justifying the expenditures of our military, including the contractors who make millions off our wars.

I believe our many fought to give us the options we have today, but in the past 30 years, we have made the world less safe for Americans and the wonderful service people who give their lives for our country.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm

PA Mom, I don't fully agree with your analysis, but even so - it seems like you should be sad if they said they were going to become politicians, not join the armed forces. Politicians choose the wars; our armed forces try to win them.

Don't worry - I imagine the families and their fine children are used to callous remarks like yours and simply ignore them.

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 3, 2010 at 1:13 am

How fantastic that these students have chosen to serve in the military and risk their lives for our freedom. Veterans are much too unappreciated in our country; we should be grateful for them. The rest of us are all sissies.

"Flaherty, an Eagle Scout, honor student and varsity football player at Menlo" . . . he followed his brother's footsteps exactly. Hello, Brian! Thank you for teaching my son lacrosse! Best to you!

Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 3, 2010 at 5:17 am

It takes particular courage, fortitude and dedication to go join the military in this area, populated by fools like PA Mom who never has, and never will, understand that without our military, there would be no USA, and there would be no ability for her to criticize those she disagrees with.

It is the USA military, though not called that, filled with volunteers who sacrificed lives, limbs, property, families, to break from totalitarianism starting in 1776, and it is the USA military, still filled with just volunteers at this point, which has brought unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to about 45 of the world's almost 200 nations since then. Without the USA military, freedom to criticize anything you wish, even foolish criticism, would not exist.

I asked my brother how he could tolerate his time in every trouble spot in the world in his 30 years in the Air Force, knowing there were folks like PA Mom back home, and he told me that we need the PA Moms to prove that what he was defending was still worth defending..we have to tolerate foolish opinions or we lose the right to express intelligent ones.

Wow..now THAT is dedication to a principle. I would have a very hard time risking my life, being separated from my family, living in horrible conditions for months on end, defending PA Mom's right to say such things as she has written,( good grief, so blatantly off the wall, I don't even know where to begin to refute them), but that is the kind of military we have.

No thanks to PA Mom.

Thank you Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Flaherty, you have my and my family's undying respect and admiration, may you love your work and not be distracted by silliness.

I hope you can understand that the PA Moms prove that what you are dedicating yourselves to is worth dedicating yourselves to,just like us tolerating that Westboro Baptist church to say anything it wants proves the freedoms you defend still work. We have to have these types of folks to prove that our Declaration of Independence and our Constitutional Bill of Rights still hold true.

It might be good for the rest of us to read the Declaration of Independence, all the way through, this weekend and remind ourselves how we began, and what the results are that you swear to defend.

Fitting thread for the 4th of July Weekend.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2010 at 6:17 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Palo alto mom, when you stop fighting you become a vassal of someone who continues. My war was Korea, and my monument is a people free to seek their own dreams rather than to submit to a madman.
I'll bet you would love Sharia.

Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 3, 2010 at 7:30 am

Yup, Walter...those Koreans sure are mad at you for giving them their freedom, and all of us Americans who trade with the free Koreans sure are upset about the mutually beneficial economic results!

Darn, we should have left south Korea to turn into North Korea!

hee hee

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I am thrilled at the comments to this article (thanks PAOnline for writing it); they make me realize that Palo Alto is not entirely the anti-military community it can appear to be.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Amen, Chris. Any relation to "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias?

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

To where can I send them chocolate chip cookies.??
Every college kid should get CCC's especially first year students at the Naval Academy, West Point, and the AF and Coast Guard academies CCC are food for the stressed soul. I've sent many a box years ago.

Like this comment
Posted by geral
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

they are sorely misled.
"The US, however, is losing even a bigger war at home where a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes."
Web Link

The types of crimes committed by the fbi/cia/dod,etc., as I have witnessed over the course of my lifetime are not new to mankind; indeed, for as long as man has walked on the face of the earth he has been confronted with his own savagery and inhumanity to fellow man. War has become legal; fbi/cia covert intelligence operations (including mass murder and other assassinations & tortures) are well known by many but never spoken about in polite conversations because they are also legal by awful custom. Thus, the end game for man is now being shaped by the most barbaric feature of his character: man's criminal urge to destroy one another for myriad purposes. Mark Twain perhaps captured this truth as he said,
" A crime preserved in a thousand centuries ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom, and custom supersedes all other forms of law."

The recent wars are paid for largely by the lives of (and taxed on the backs of) the poor .
Send the senators (like Lindsey Graham, et al) into battle on the front lines to remove the hidden bombs and see how long the war would last.
Other candidates for the proposed congressional bomb squad battalion are found in the marble hallways of Congress and specifically from here:

Web Link

War not worth fighting by a USA not worth defending

The awful irony of our time is that the three official branches of government are now overthrown by the unofficial fourth branch, Administrative Agencies.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Another PA mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Wow. I have often used the name "PA mom" but will have to stop that from now on. I think it's very courageous when our youth step up and serve our country.

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