May 24, 2022 at 3:21 p.m.
With graduation comes a sense of completion and freedom for graduated seniors.
There is a summer of graduation parties, maybe a job and looking forward to college. Some are challenging themselves almost immediately after graduation, enlisting in the military.
“I was always interested in military,” Sam Berscheit said. “I felt the Marines would push me harder. I respond well when I am pushed.”
Berscheit, son of Dave and Holly Berscheit, of Melrose, is following a family tradition. His father served in the Marine Corps. He has been attending training once a month since signing up last year, through the delayed entry program and is planning on an eight-year career with the Marines. He reports in August for 12 weeks of basic training in San Diego, Calif.
Luke Braun, son of Jason and Kristie Braun, of Melrose, is not wasting anytime starting his military service. He, like other Melrose seniors, will graduate May 27, and then he is off to the Army.
“I graduate Friday, have my grad party on Sunday. On Monday we drive to St. Cloud and are taken to St. Paul. We have a final physical and then fly out to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, for eight weeks of basic training,” he said.
With a military history in his family, Braun is considering a military career. His grandfather, Roger Becker, served in Vietnam and Germany. His paternal grandparent, Bob Braun, served in the Minnesota National Guard.
“Joining the military was something I always wanted to do. I have an interest in history, in wars and stuff. I looked at different branches,” Braun said. “It’s interesting and you get to tour the world and see a lot of things.”
He also has an interest in hunting and guns, which led him to applying for very specific – and dangerous – training. He plans to be a fire support specialist, which is a frontline person who helps artillery and support locate and aim at targets.
Like Berscheit, Braun joined through the delayed entry program and has been attending workout/training sessions in St. Cloud, preparing for basic training.
Another Melrose Area graduate, who has been going to training sessions during her senior year, is Kimi Klassen. The daughter of Paul and Becky Klassen, of Melrose, she is already putting in time in the military. She is the first in her family to wear a military uniform.
“I wasn’t really considering it until about April of my junior year when a National Guard recruiter came to the school. That was the first time I had even heard there were part-time military options,” she said. “I always thought if you were in the military that is what you do full time. I also like the self-discipline and the teamwork aspect of it.”
She will be attending college and holding down jobs while in the National Guard. Klassen joined the National Guard for a six-year term last year.
“I enlisted last May. With the guard your term starts when you enlist. I already have one year down,” she said.
She cannot be deployed until completing the nine-week basic training course at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. She then moves to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, for a 20-week advanced individual training session.
“My AIT is long, but I will be an intelligence analyst,” Klassen said. “I will learn to predict an enemy’s next move.”
Berscheit, Braun and Klassen view AIT as something that will help them in the long term. Klassen, who plans to take entrepreneurial management classes in college, likes learning about predicting trends. Braun sees his 11-week training at Ft. Sill (following basic training), as helping with his goal of being an Army Ranger. Berscheit will follow his basic training with training in being a diesel mechanic.
Those are their goals, but they all pointed out that any time after basic training they can be deployed.
Besides the specialized training, they see their time in the service as a chance to learn about themselves.
Berscheit is preparing himself for an intense basic training – and expects to be challenged by it.
“First week is initiation week,” he said. “After that, it gets harder with different challenges. The last week is the crucible. That’s a long hike, and at the end you get a pin to be a Marine.”
Earning that pin is the goal for the recruits, and it says something about their drive and character.
“It is saying you have passed all the challenges they have to offer, and you are now graduated as a Marine,” he said.
Braun feels ready for the challenges of basic training and AIT, even parachute training. A major concern for him is the Ranger Assessment Selection Program which begins in January.
“There are about 130 in the RASP. That is the one I am most worried about,” he said. “At RASP, you get selected to go to a Ranger regiment.”
The challenge to learn about herself is what captured Klassen’s’ attention when considering the military.
“One of the main factors is self-improvement,” she said. “I found that intriguing and kind of like testing the mental and physical toughness aspects, as well. I want to see how far I can push myself.”
Just where their military service will lead them is unknown. But one thing is for sure – they are proud to be serving their country.