Another local man, Forrest Zenone, ready to return to West Point for late graduation; president expected to speak to 2020 class

By Ed Martin, Editor
United States Military Academy 2020 grad and LHS alum, Forrest Zenone, will return to West Point for his graduation ceremony.
United States Military Academy 2020 grad and LHS alum, Forrest Zenone, will return to West Point for his graduation ceremony.

The United States Military Academy at West Point, overlooking the Hudson River, majestically meandering to the Atlantic Ocean, is considered one of the most beautiful places in America. It has also been home to some of America’s greatest military leaders and two presidents.

Ulysses S. Grant guided the Union Army to victory during the Civil War, and Dwight David Eisenhower reigned as the Allied Supreme Commander, leading the allies to victory in World War II. Their service during challenging times prepared them both for the presidency.

While the 2016 Lemoore High School grad Forrest Zenone has a long way to go before taking up residence at the White House, he understands the significance of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has spent the last four years at the historic school, training and educating himself to become an Army officer.

The 22-year-old former ASB senior class president in high school knows the aura that surrounds West Point and the historical achievements many of its graduates have contributed to the American experience.  “Going to West Point – my first day – was an absolutely surreal experience,” recalled the former Tiger and water polo player. “Coming through the mountains and the trees, you just feel the sense of history. I had a full range of emotions. I was excited, and I was nervous – just that realization that I’m actually doing this.

“When you first go through the (historic) gate, you see those huge stone structures. It was an absolutely surreal experience going through there. I definitely didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t know what to expect. West Point doesn’t make great people, but it definitely sets you up with the resources to be great. You just have to use them.”

This year was not a typical West Point senior year. Zenone and his fellow cadets left during spring break and didn’t return. Their regular spring break was extended. “Everyone went on spring break, and then we found out we wouldn’t be going back.”

While the coronavirus put a damper on the final few months of his academy experience, he is looking forward to returning to the hallowed campus for his graduation and an expected commencement address from the president, who indicated he intends to visit the historic campus. President Donald Trump is expected to speak to the cadets on June 13.

“We’ll be returning in intervals,” said Zenone. “I’ll be flying back on the 27th (May) and be back at West Point on the 28th. “They have different intervals for different cohorts of cadets. I believe I’m in the second cohort.”

Zenone said officials would medically test the cadets when they return. “They’re doing the nasal testing, so I’m not excited about that. I believe they’ll be quarantining those that test positive. Those that test negative, they’ll be in isolated areas following social distancing guidelines. We’ll be in quarantine for two weeks.”

There are over 1,000 graduates expected to graduate. West Point’s regular graduation was originally scheduled for May 23.

Zenone is also good friends with fellow Lemoore grads Jake Hansen and Roman Benitez, both of whom are graduating from the U.S. Naval Military Academy at Annapolis. Both Annapolis grads said they didn’t get an official graduation ceremony. Hansen will attend aviation training while Benitez opted for the U.S. Marine Corps and will attend “Basic School” at Quantico, Virginia.

“I’m absolutely excited for them,” said Zenone. “I’m bummed that they didn’t get a graduation (ceremony) to celebrate their efforts, but we’re all on the same team now.”

Why the Military Academy? “I come from a Navy family, so growing up, I was part of the United States Sea Cadet Corps, and that’s kind of a Navy funded program, similar to Boy Scouts. I spent a lot of my summers growing up doing training on naval ships. I knew I wanted to be in the military,” he recalled.

Zenone’s grandfather enlisted in the Navy and eventually earned a commission.

“When I applied for college, I threw all my eggs into the basket,” he said. He ended up earning appointments to the Air Force Academy, Navy Prep School (a precursor to attending the Naval Academy), and West Point. “I asked my grandfather what he thought would be the best route, something I could learn from and develop, and make some kind of significant impact. He recommended going to West Point.”

He majored in information technology and said he loved it. He expects to be stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. “That should be fun. I spent three weeks shadowing a platoon leader at Ft. Hood, Texas,” he said.

What are his plans? “That’s a good question. At this point, I’m not really sure. I’m going to just see what happens, and just make the most of it.”

There’s isn’t a single tangible goal he hopes to achieve. “The big goal, more qualitative in nature, is that you only have one life. Make the most of it. Have a positive impact.  Make the most of each day and learn as much as I can.

“Being that officer in charge. They don’t work for me; I work for them. I want to provide the most to the people I serve with. I don’t want to let my people down.”


Another local man, Forrest Zenone, ready to return to West Point for late graduation; president expected to speak to 2020 class
Comments powered by Disqus