Manila senior accepts appointment to U.S. Air Force Academy

Thursday, April 1, 2004
Daniel Hilligrass

Daniel Hilligrass, Manila High School senior, was offered and accepted an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. He received all three congressional nominations, one from Representative Marion Berry, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and Senator Mark Pryor. Congressman Berry's office called and congratulated Daniel while he was in New York on spring break.

Daniel is the son of Jay and LuAnne Hilligrass of Manila, grandson of Bill Bradshaw of Flint, Mich., Harriet Bradshaw of Hot Springs and Edward and Maria Hilligrass of Johnsonville, N.Y. He is the great-grandson of Willie L. O'Neill of Manila.

While attending Manila High School, Daniel has been active in FBLA, FCCLA, Beta Club, Quiz Bowl, Year Book, Victorious Christian Youth, Student Council, Choir, French and Science Clubs. He has consistently maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, has had all A's on every report card since kindergarten. Daniel plays baseball on the high school team, and is one of the Valedictorians of his graduating class. He is the only high school student in Arkansas to make the all-state choir four years in a row.

Daniel earned his private pilot's license last October after receiving a $1,000 grant from the Manila Pilot's Association of which he is a member. He will work on getting his soaring (glider) license this spring.

He is active in his church, Manila First Assembly of God, where he has assisted in making and distributing food baskets for those in the community in need plus teaches the Sunday evening nursery school class. Daniel has also sung in the Community Christmas Cantata at the First Baptist Church in Manila for the past three years, announced at Manila Lions home basketball games, and sang the National Anthem at numerous events including the Manila Air Shows.

Daniel's parents are very proud of him.

"He has grown to be a fine young man. He is a good Christian and the values instilled in him aren't just beliefs. These beliefs he tries to live by everyday. Daniel is ready to make the choices that will shape the rest of his life and the lives of those around him. As parents we have been blessed and give God all the glory," Mr. and Mrs. Hilligrass said.

About becoming a cadet:

Each year over 11,000 young men and women initiate applications to the USAF Academy. Approximately 8,000 have the potential to qualify as candidates but only about 3,000 complete the process and receive the necessary nominations. Of those 3,000 who receive nominations, only 1,300 will eventually be appointed. The process starts with a mountain of paperwork to see if the candidates have the "Right Stuff". Next applicants must send a certified copy of their high school transcripts with a letter of recommendation from the high school counselor. The Air Force pays for a complete physical. Following the physical applicants complete a physical aptitude test, which measures a candidate's strength, agility, coordination and speed. Additionally, each candidate must write an essay on why they want to be an Air Force Officer. Finally, a designated Academy Liaison Officer, will conduct a personal interview. He will write his observations, thoughts and recommendations and send them to the Academy. As with all of the Military Academies, you must be at least 17 years old but not older than 23 years old on July 1st of the year of appointment, be unmarried and have no legal obligation to support children.

About the Air Force Academy:

The United States Air Force Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs, Colo. It sits on a ridge 7,258 feet above sea level at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The 14,110-foot panoramic view of Pikes Peak to the south is breathtaking and to the east, cadets can view the Academy airport from their dorm rooms. All of the cadets will fly sailplanes and most will learn to parachute during their four years at the Academy.

The Air Force Academy has produced some of the world's finest officers such as Lt. General Bradley Hosmer. A graduate of the class of '59 at the Air Force Academy, Lt. General Hosmer rose through the military ranks as a navigator, pilot, forward air-combat controller, to become the vice director of the Joint Staff, president of the National Defense University, inspector general of the Air Force and finally served his last tour of duty as the superintendent of the Air Force Academy. He is just one shining example of the very first Air Force Academy cadets. Many have gone on since to lead the Air Force and others have separated from military service to become leaders in private industry.

Daniel said he would like to thank a few of those who have helped him out along the way. They are Jimmy White (major USAF retired and his flight instructor), Tim Bragg, Larry "Whiz" Davis, Dr. Robert Flannigan, Major Paul Rowlett, the Manila High School teachers, staff and counselors (past and present) and all of his friends and family who have supported him.

Daniel will fly to Colorado Springs on July 1 for Basic Cadet Training and start instruction when the fall semester begins.

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