Army-Navy rivalry hits Eagle family
EAGLE — For the past two years, Paul and Mary Witt had clear loyalties during the Army-Navy football game.
With their son, Ben Witt, enrolled as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, they proudly donned their navy blue “Go Navy, beat Army” shirts.
Things are going to be much more complicated this fall when their younger son, David Witt, reports as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Securing an appointment to one of the nation’s four military academies is a difficult proposition, so consider the odds of brothers from a town as small as Eagle both being selected. What did their parents feed those Witt boys?
“My mom always jokes that we must be adopted,” David Witt said.
The Witts have military service as part of their family tree. Mary Witt’s father was a Marine and Paul Witt’s dad served in the Army. Then two years ago, Ben set his sights on attending a military academy.
“What first attracted me to the Academy was, as cliche as it sounds, the ability to get my degree and further my education while working towards something that I’ve always wanted to do, which is protect and serve the nation that has given me so much,” Ben Witt said.
He has thrived during his time at Annapolis. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people here. This school is challenging and it will push you but it’s the people that you meet and the bonds you form that really gets you through,” Ben Witt said. “For me, the most difficult part has been the balancing the time required for school and for all of our other mandatory events. There’s always something that can take up more of your time and I’ve had my fair share of late nights as a result.”
Vision from a visit
“I actually didn’t want to attend a military academy until we visited the Naval Academy with Ben,” David Witt said. “I looked around and I liked it. It seemed like it was a place where I could fit in. It was just a gut feeling.”
David liked the academy atmosphere, where everyone was working hard and working toward a common goal.
“I didn’t really push my brother into following the same route that I did,” said Ben. “I gave him all the information that I had so that he could make the best decision possible for himself. I always encouraged him to do what he felt he should do and not what other people thought that he should do because, at the end of the day, it’s about making yourself happy and you’re not going to do that by letting other make decisions for you.”
“Because we’re incredibly close, we both think alike and he happened to chose this path as well,” Ben Witt said.
When David returned home from Annapolis, a family friend suggested he consider West Point. One visit to upstate New York was all it took for him to change his mind.
“I loved it there. It was beautiful and it was the same type of people I liked,” David Witt said.
With his goal now determined, David set about netting his recommendation and acceptance. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton nominated both of the Witt boys for their respective military academies. As for his application letter, David believes his service trips with the Children’s Global Alliance to Cambodia, Tanzania and Nicaragua helped make his story compelling.
“That’s a very unique experience that not a lot of kids can put on their resume,” David Witt said.
David will report to cadet basic training July 3. “That’s where you begin to learn to be a soldier,” David Witt said. In the long term, David wants study mechanical engineering and eventually become a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.
“Living next to HAATS (Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site) I have always wanted to fly helicopters,” he said.
David has heard plenty of cautionary tales about first year military academy life from his brother.
“Ben said it sucks, but it’s only for a year. After that, he said it doesn’t get easy, but it gets easier.”
David knows that he is taking a more difficult route through college.
“My friends are going to be up all night partying. I am going to be up all night studying military history and prepping my uniform,” he said. “I have talked to lots of people and they all say there is a point in every cadet’s life there they want to quit. But they said to sleep on it and stay.”
How about the Army-Navy Game?
“When I found out I was getting my appointment, I called Ben and just said ‘Go Army’ and I hung up the phone,” David Witt said.
Considering the long-standing rivalry between West Point and Annapolis, how does Ben feel about his brother’s decision?
“As a midshipman at the Naval Academy, I am required to say that he should’ve gone to the better school — obviously, the Naval Academy — but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team and I am very, very proud of him,” Ben Witt said. “I truly believe that he is going to shine there.”
Ben said he is curious to learn how West Point differs from the Naval Academy.
“Being here, we hear a lot of rumors about what it’s like in the school up north and I’m curious to see how many of them are true,” he said.
“The Army-Navy game is going to be tough,” Ben Witt continued. “There’s going to be a lot of bold accusations being made on both sides.”
Mary Witt says she plans to purchase a Navy football jersey and an Army football jersey, cut them both down the middle and match up the two sides and then she and Paul can root for both sons at the game. For now, David said he has a dilemma — throughout the years Ben has sent him a whole lot of Navy gear that he will absolutely never wear again.
“I am going to give it all to Sebie,” David Witt said.
Yes, there is another Witt brother. Sebastian will start Eagle Valley High School next year and his brothers tease him about how he needs to attend the Air Force Academy to round out the family’s military academy experience.
“It would be kind of cool to have a brother in each academy,” David Witt said. “But Sebie is going to go wherever he wants to go.”
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