Congressman Vern Buchanan recognizes 17 nominees who received appointments to Service Academies.

Getting into one of the United States Service Academies is no easy feat. Tens of thousands of hopeful students apply for admittance to one of five service academies every year, and with only a few thousand slots available, getting in can be a formidable task that begins early in high school with rigorous course loads, extracurricular activities, community involvement and athletic pursuits. Just ask one of the 17 students nominated by Congressman Vern Buchanan that earned appointments.

Well, you could ask them, if they weren’t already sweating through physically and mentally taxing cadet summer training programs that train, instruct, inspire and transition new cadets from civilians to cadets.

Local students who were nominated by Buchanan and earned an appointment include: Bell Creek Academy High School graduate Sebastian Correa (United States Military Academy); Sumner High School graduate David Tirado-Alonzo (United States Military Academy); Newsome High School graduates Spencer Caceres (United States Air Force Academy), Alexander Fraga (United States Merchant Marine Academy) and Colby Prince (United States Naval Academy); Marion Military Institute graduate Francis Connor Dias of Lithia (United States Naval Academy); and Durant High School graduate Austin Holcomb of Lithia (United States Air Force Academy).

In addition, several graduates of the one-year U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, where cadets learn academic, leadership and physical skills, also earned nominations, including Ryan Matthews of Riverview, Yaideliz Lorenzo-Mendoza of Ruskin and Axeladiel Zengotita of Lithia.

Caceres attended Basic Cadet Training in 2019 but separated from the academy to serve a two-year church mission and had to reapply for admission. An appointment was not a guarantee, but for him, a mission was worth the risk.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission and teach and love the people of Mexico City,” he said. “I return to the Air Force Academy not only having mastered a second language but a more dedicated and disciplined cadet with a greater love for my country.”

These cadets will receive a free, world-class education; free room and board; free medical and dental benefits; and the opportunity for a rewarding career in exchange for a commitment to serve as a commissioned officer (the length of time being dependent on the chosen career path and other factors).

“I congratulate these outstanding young men and women for their appointments,” said Buchanan. “It’s an honor for not only them but all who have supported them along the way and have every confidence that they will serve our nation with honor.”

For more information about the appointment process visit each service academy’s website. For information about applying for a nomination to a service academy, visit

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Michelle Caceres
MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.