When the Mountain Democrat caught up with Shelby Lee, he had only three days before leaving El Dorado County and beginning Cadet Basic Training at West Point Military Academy on June 29.
The 2014 Ponderosa High School graduate already knows a little of what awaits him since older brother, Andrew, is beginning his junior year at the Point.
First, three weeks of basic military maneuvers at the Point and then three weeks out in the field learning to handle weaponry and play war games against the senior cadets.
“I’m not looking forward to the marching,” said Shelby, “but I’m really looking forward to the field.”
He’s been looking forward to the field aspect of the military since he was 4 and traipsed off to camp on the family property by himself in his father’s old Boy Scout tent. At 5, he dug a 20 foot long bunker in the front yard with a shovel and pickaxe, complete with shooting holes.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the military and this is the best way. It’s a good school,” said Shelby, 18. “I think I have a better idea than many about what to expect (at West Point).”
“He’s been all over the campus several times and got to do an overnight in the barracks this winter, so he knows Andrew’s friends,” said Reetha Lee, Shelby and Andrew’s mother.
Shelby also attended Reception Day last year in which civilians become new cadets and then he spent two days shadowing a student on the campus.
Having an older brother on campus presents both positive and negative possibilities.
“This year he can have a car, so I might be able to go with him,” said Shelby, “and I might be allowed to participate in some of his privileges.”
Of course, being the younger brother may also make him a ready target for some negative attention, but Shelby takes this as a matter of course.
After lettering in four sports at Ponderosa including golf, basketball, swimming and water polo, in which he was All-Conference in his senior year, Shelby plans to make the West Point water polo team despite the Point’s reputation as having a very academically rigorous year for plebes. He’s already had the opportunity to practice with the team.
“I won’t know if I can do both the academics and sports until I get there,” said Shelby.
A great high school GPA gives hope that he will, because an added incentive to making the water polo team is less time spent marching.
An Eagle Scout who built a garden with six raised beds and an irrigation system for Buckeye Elementary School, Shelby has also had plenty of experience with backpacking, mountain climbing and 50-mile hiking trips.
“He’s quite an outdoorsman,” said Steve Lee, dad.
Plebes have little free time in their first year so neither brother will be home in Shingle Springs until Christmas. Parents Reetha and Steve plan to make several visits to West Point in the next year for “R” Day, for Affirmation Day in which Andrew will affirm his committment to complete his appointment to West Point, Army football games and other sports events. Reetha plans to use her flight pass to attend every water polo event, a prospect that made her son say, “Oh, Mom.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter