Tayler Johnston had a moment last week that moved her.
“We were marching in a Memorial Day parade and I saw one of my former classmates in (military) uniform marching,” the daughter of Lori and Lonnie Johnston said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Soon enough, the Jefferson senior will be creating moments like that as she has accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy in Annapolis, Md., where she plans to study polical science.
“I’m proud to be representing my country,” she said. “It’s an honor. It really is.”
There were a number of levels at which the Navy appealed to Johnston as she was deciding on what to do with the next four years.
“It was a lot of different things with the military,” she said. “My father was in the military. My grandpa was in the Navy, even the pledge before games or standing for the national anthem or just standing there in my volleyball uniform. I felt I was representing something bigger than myself.
“I wanted to do that on a bigger level. Representing my country makes me proud.”
That she was making such a monumental decision and following up on it didn’t exactly hit Johnston between the eyes. It took her quite a long time to realize the magnitude of the decision was making.
“I was really excited,” Johnston said. “It first hit me when my application was finished, which was late September or early October. I received my letter of assurance, which basically means you’re good as long as you pass your interviews, in early November.”
Filling out and sending in an application is just the first step in the process. Unlike most schools, there is an interview process. It isn’t simply the dean of a department who asks the questions, either.
“It’s such a long process,” Johnston said. “Most don’t get a letter of assurance unless they’re an athlete and getting recruited. I interviewed throughout January with both the senators and the congressman.
“What happens is the senator and the congressman can each pick a staff of four people and they get to ask questions. It was nerve-wracking. I did the best I could do. I tried to keep smiling and show that I was passionate and excited. What could go wrong if I did my best?”
The longest 30 days of Johnston’s young life followed as she impatiently awaited a response. It was well worth the wait, however.
“Every single day after school, I would check the mail,” Johnston said.
Despite her diligence in checking the mailbox, it was Johnston’s mom who received the letter delivering the news.
“I was at work and my mom called me in tears,” Johnston said. “She sent me a picture of the letter. I was at Applebee’s right up at the front and I was crying at work. I was right in front of the door.”
Johnston, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, got the equivalent of two thumbs up. Both Senator Rob Portman and Congressman Dave Joyce signed off on the appointment.
“I think it took a month or so for them to get back to me,” Johnston said. “This only really happens in Ohio, but they get together and talk about who they’re going to nominate so they don’t nominate the same person and they get more people from Ohio in there. I ended up getting two of them. That’s rare in Ohio.”
Needless to say, Johnston swelled with pride at the news.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m proud to say I got to this point. I’m proud I get to serve my country. I’m excited I’ve got some great opportunities available to me for my future. Growing up in a small place like Ashtabula County, I’m excited that I’ll get to see more of the world than I ever expected.
“I’m excited to go to the Naval Academy and I get to represent my community and my family. It’s such an honor.”