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    Marine Corps hosts inaugural Battles Won Academy

    Marine Corps hosts inaugural Battles Won Academy

    Photo By Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nygaard | Semper Fidelis All-Americans pose for a photo during the closing ceremonies of the...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard     

    Marine Corps Recruiting Command           

    Marine Corps Recruiting Command welcomed 97 high school students from across the nation to the inaugural Battles Won Academy, in Washington D.C., July 14-16, 2017. The academy is part of the Marine Corps’ Semper Fidelis All-American Program, which recognizes young men and women who excel in athletics, but have also shown themselves to be leaders in the classroom and in their hometowns.

    “You’re not just athletes and scholars with lots of extracurricular activities – you are exemplars of the communities from which you come from,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, speaking to the All-Americans and their mentors during the opening ceremony of the Battles Won Academy. “We consider you the future leadership of America.”

    For the past five years, the Marine Corps has hosted the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, an exhibition game between the top high school football players in the country. During Marine Week 2016, Kennedy announced that the All-American program would evolve from a football-specific program to become more inclusive of athletes from other varsity sports, including both men and women.

    In order to be nominated as a Semper Fidelis All-American, athletes had to be at least a high school junior, have a 3.5 GPA or higher, actively serve their community, and participate in a varsity team sport. Many of the All-Americans have overcome personal challenges such as financial instability, adverse home life, injury, loss of a loved one, and illness. One athlete, Bailey Bish, had once been a standout basketball player at her high school in Tucson, Arizona, but now suffers from a neurological disorder that limits the use of her limbs. She spends most of her days in a wheelchair and is assisted in breathing through the use of an oxygen machine.

    “My wheelchair was definitely a big point of conversation when I got (to the academy),” said Bish, who now plays golf using only her left arm. “A lot of people were curious as to why I was in it and why I needed it. Once I told them why, they were very impressed, and they were very kind and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people.”

    The academy itself functioned as a leadership seminar that focused on mentoring the All-Americans, developing self-confidence, discipline, teamwork, and honing the fighting spirit that embodies the Marine Corps. The 97 All-Americans were divided into 16 teams and assigned a Marine mentor who guided them in leadership and athletic activities. The seminar also included several speaking engagements by Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.; world champion wrestler Adeline Gray; NFL running back Christian McCaffrey; and Marine Corps veteran and author Rye Barcott.

    During the first day, the All-Americans traveled to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia to learn about the fighting spirit of the Marine Corps, which included martial arts demonstrations and participating in simulated marksmanship training. The second day featured a fitness challenge at Under Armour’s headquarters and helping with a community service project in Baltimore. The final day consisted of a scavenger hunt on the National Mall in which the All-Americans learned more about the history of America. Throughout the course of academy, the teams had breakout sessions with their Marine mentors in which they discussed topics such as overcoming adversity and leading their peers.

    The culminating event of the academy was a banquet hosted by ESPN personality Sage Steele during which Gen. Glenn Walters, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, presented leadership awards to two of the athletes, Juvia Davis and LaMarcus Strickland.

    Once the academy was concluded, the athletes and the parents and coaches who accompanied them made their way back to their hometowns. They would not only be taking with them the experience of having participated in the first Battles Won Academy, but also friendships forged through teamwork.

    “At first, I didn’t know anyone from my team,” said Diontae Atkins of Brooklyn, New York. “I sat at dinner and this girl, Caroline (Ditzler), she’s on my team, we clicked right away. Then I met the rest of my team…We all just got along well. We bonded and we all know everything about each other…we have a Snapchat group chat and we’re always going to stay in contact.”



    Date Taken: 07.21.2017
    Date Posted: 07.21.2017 22:46
    Story ID: 242106
    Location: QUANTICO, VA, US 

    Web Views: 665
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