Local student among elite few accepted into a military academy

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - LOHS senior Grant Van Hoomissen is an award-winning triathlon competitor and marksman who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at age 12. He will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in the fall.Grant Van Hoomissen’s three-page resume is packed with awards, volunteer commitments, athletic feats, academic accomplishments and employment experiences— and now the Lake Oswego teen’s got one more thing to add to it.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley announced that 14 of the 35 “best and brightest” Oregon teens he nominated have been accepted to military academies, and Van Hoomissen is one of them.

“I have always felt a strong desire to serve my country,” said Van Hoomissen, a Lake Oswego High School senior.

The 6-foot, 2-inch tall 18-year-old is among six students in the state who got the green light to take off to the U.S. Air Force Academy this fall.

When he got a call from Merkley’s office telling him he’d gotten in, Van Hoomissen said: “I lost my breath for a second, and my heart skipped a beat. It probably came out in a jumble, but I kept saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

The young man said he always has wanted to be a pilot, as a child drawing pictures of himself in the cockpit of a soaring plane, so he feels “very blessed” to be joining the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“If I want something, I’m going to go chase it and get it,” Van Hoomissen said. “There’s been a lot of hard work, but I think the support is a big deal.”

He names his parents, scoutmasters and teachers as among his many supporters.

Kristina Aalberg, an LOHS English teacher, said Van Hoomissen was a great student, pleasant and polite, with a good sense of humor.

“Often during discussion he disagreed with the general consensus of the class, and I was often impressed by his ability to stand up for his dissenting opinion,” Aalberg said. “He is a young man with strong opinions and strong principles. I am confident that he will represent Lake Oswego very well at the Air Force Academy.”

She said one of his distinguishing characteristics is his wide range of interests and talents.

Van Hoomissen’s accomplishments and abilities include: possessing a high GPA and SAT score, serving four years as an award-winning member of the varsity wrestling team (co-captain in 11th grade and 12th grade), competing in nine triathlons since he was 9 (placing second and third in some of them and first in a half-marathon), earning his Eagle Scout ranking at age 12 (very rare), winning marksman awards from the National Rifle Association, landing several major Boy Scouts of America awards and being the youngest and first 15 year old to graduate from the 10-week Mazama Climbing Club Rock and Alpine Climbing Course. As a climber, he’s conquered Mount St. Helens, South Sister and Mount Bachelor.

He said his varsity wrestling experiences will help him succeed at the academy.

“Wrestling really parallels it because you’re going to need to push yourself and do your best every day,” Van Hoomissen said.

Gifted with an ability to plan and organize, he’s made time to earn a motorboat license, gain skills in sailing and kayaking, travel abroad and learn Spanish and Russian, work as a Lake Oswego School District lifeguard and IT consultant year-round and take flight lessons.

“I don’t get much sleep,” he said.

Then, there’s the volunteerism, largely rooted in his Boy Scout service — performing his Eagle Scout service project and helping seven other scouts with their Eagle Scout projects, ringing the bell for three years for several of the Salvation Army’s collection drives and serving meals to the homeless.

Part of what has made him successful is more than hard work, planning and skill.

“It’s primarily taking opportunities and utilizing them,” he said.

His school activities include being elected as a senator to the Student Body Assembly four years in a row and co-founding the LOHS Mankind Eating Animals Together (MEAT). MEAT members cook, eat and socialize.

When he and a friend were first launching it, “I’m pretty sure the Vegetarian Club was about to have a fit — Actually, I don’t even know if that’s true,” he joked.

His next challenge is saying good-bye to the place where he was born and raised and stepping up to a great responsibility.

After the academy, most graduates must complete at least five years of active duty, but pilots, after training, must commit 10 years.

Van Hoomissen comes from military stock — his parents and many of his relatives and in-laws have served in the armed forces.

His mom is among the first class of female graduates from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980, and his dad was among the last class of all-male graduates in 1979. Both are retired Air Force officers and are Van Hoomissen’s role models.

“Their incredible wealth of knowledge is immaculate to me, and to be a successor to their lineage is really an honor — maybe they’ll bump up my allowance for that,” he said and then broke into a huge smile.

His father, Mike Van Hoomissen, said his son pursued a military career on his own and is well suited to it.

“Officers have to be and are trained to work hard and accomplish a lot in a short period of time,” he said.

Officers also are trained to be polite, and his son is a gentleman, pulling out chairs and holding doors for women and saying “please” and “thank you.” His manners also are integral to his life, his father said.

“Grant gets a lot of that from the tenants of the Boy Scout Oath and Law as well as his Christian faith,” Mike Van Hoomissen said.

The young man’s mother, Jan Van Hoomissen, said she and her husband are proud of their son, and she’s glad he’s being rewarded for his hard work.

“We’re just very pleased that he’s going to have this opportunity to serve his country in the military,” she said.

By Jillian Daley
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