WHS senior follows in brother’s footprints to the United States Air Force Academy

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WHEATLAND – Wheatland outgoing senior John Paul Anderson (JP) received news that he received a rare honor by being a high school student who had an early invitation given to him to join the United States Air Force Academy. It is a place the Anderson family is familiar with as Anderson’s older brother Luke is also enrolled in the USAF Academy.

“I am leaving on June 28 to go to basic training,” Anderson said. “I’ll go through half my baseball season and I’ll have to leave for the academy at Colorado Springs. My brother Luke (also at the United States Air Force Academy) won’t be there when I get there because he will be interning in D.C.”

Anderson will go through five weeks of basic training. As he describes his first day on base, he called it “I-Day” which will outfit him and bring him up to speed as far as rules and regulations.

“Two weeks later, you march up to a place called Jack’s Valley,” Anderson said. “That is where you will do most of your basic training. Everything’s pretty much in Colorado Springs and I will be there for four years. While I am there I will probably play for the club basketball team and hopefully I will get on what is called their ‘Wings of Blue,’ which is a competitive skydiving team. Yeah. And after then I want to fly.”

Anderson said it’s always been a dream to fly helicopters. He said that he can start recording his flying hours while he is at the academy. His brother Luke is charting the same path and is planning on going to pilot school which Anderson will do and most likely once again follow in his brother’s footprints.

The road to an early invitation came by way of his head and his passion for government. Anderson, an was selected as a senator for American Legion Boys Nation in the Washington, D.C. area, last July and while there, he campaigned for and was awarded the high office of governor. 

Boys Nation is an annual American Legion program that includes civic training, leadership development and a focus on Americanism. he was also elected City Council President and appointed Attorney. The Wheatland American Legion Post sponsored Anderson’s week at Wyoming Boys State, which had 41 participants. At Wheatland High School, Anderson has served as student council vice president.

He has multiple letters in basketball, where he is team captain; football, where he was selected comeback player of the year; and baseball. His other activities and accomplishments include youth group, lector, senior honor roll, National Honor Society and top junior lifter. It has also been announced that Anderson is co-salutatorian with Grace Battershell and he maintains a 4.0 gpa.

Anderson is also an avid sportsman in Wyoming and is proficient in the field especially with his bow. He is planning on following in his brother Luke’s footsteps, hoping to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

“Three years ago my older brother was selected to attend Boys’ State,” Anderson said. “At that time, I had no idea what the program was about. He was then selected to go to Washington D.C. for Boys’ Nation where he would meet the previous vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. After hearing about his experience, I knew I wanted to attend Boys’ State as well. The honor of meeting our nation’s top government officials and representing our small state of Wyoming inspired me to attend and learn everything I could.

Anderson was chosen All-Conference this year and his coach, Mick Cochran was very sad to see this leader go.

“JP was a solid leader for our team,” Cochran said. “He did a great job of getting us into our offense and helping us execute. His ball handling and ability to deal with traps and pressure made everyone around him better. JP put in a tremendous amount of time into better himself as basketball player. He stayed after practice for at least 30 mins to fine his game, anytime the opportunity was available. JP was fearless and played with tremendous passion and energy. He is very deserving the All-Conference award he received. He will be missed and hopefully we find someone with a similar approach to the game to carry on what he started.”

As for his early appointment to the AF Academy, it involved interviews with senators and committees. He started out with then Representative Liz Chaney’s committee who appointed him to both the air force and the US Naval Academy.

“Then I had to go to Casper,” Anderson said. “I interviewed with (Senator) Barrasso and (Senator) Lummis’ committees. I am pretty sure Barrasso gave me early admittance. To do that, it’s a very strong appointment, different from a normal appointment. It’s what you would call a preferred appointment. I found out Dec. 17. I was in my conditioning class and I opened up my phone and it informed me that I had a difference in my portal.”

Anderson first received an email informing him of a change in his portal and he was a bit nervous as he said the change could be good or bad, and to find out you had to open your private military portal.

“I opened it and looked down and it said, ‘Welcome to the United States Air Force Academy and it was a letter from the academy’s superintendent.”

Anderson said that walking across that graduation stage will be sad knowing that it’s over, but also exciting to live a dream that his older brother is living.

“It’s sad, but it’s also a good thing at the same time,” he said. “Because growing up in a small town, you have to wonder about the opportunities. But my parents always told me that where you lived didn’t define you. So it’s going to be emotional on that day, but I realize I made it to the school I wanted to go to which is a big and an exclusive school and I’ll be able to serve my country.”