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Family, service and sacrifice: Siblings graduate from 3 different service academies

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo (AFNS) -- The Jones siblings, although very different from one another, chose the same path of service as they entered adulthood -- by becoming Army, Navy and Air Force officers.

Army Capt. Brooke Jones, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2009; Ensign Madison Jones, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy last year; and 2nd Lt. Blake Jones received his diploma and commission as an Air Force officer here May 28.

As each sibling developed their own interests and embarked on separate military journeys, these Woodland, Texas relatives said it's through their shared struggles and accomplishments at the various academies that their bond has grown stronger.

"I couldn't be more proud of Madison and Blake for their accomplishments," Brooke said. "It's always fun comparing experiences at the different schools, but I think attending institutions with the common goal of service was important. My sister, brother and I have always been close and loyal, but the conversations we have had over the past nine years are special. There is a mutual respect and understanding coupled with a fun rivalry."

Attending Blake's graduation here were Madison, their parents and both sets of grandparents. His sister, Brooke, tuned into the ceremony via the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System live feed from Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

"I don't think there are proper words in my vocabulary to describe how proud (I am) of him and his accomplishment," Brooke said.

"Blake is incredibly bright and has the leadership skills that anyone would want on their team," she said. "He is going to be an unbelievable officer."

 Madison said it was heart-warming to watch her brother walk across the platform during graduation because she knew exactly how he felt.

"The three academies are so different, but the one similarity is what it feels like to get that diploma, say the oath, and commission as an officer," Madison said. "He did it on his own and I couldn't be more proud of him."

Neither of the Jones parents served in the military, nor have any of their direct and immediate family members.

"We're very much individuals, and we wanted to attend different schools," Blake said. "When I visited the Air Force Academy on a trip, I fell in love with the area and thought it was a beautiful campus. It seemed like it would be a challenging institution and I wanted to challenge myself. Both of my sisters challenged themselves and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, without following exactly in their footsteps."

Brooke was the first from the family to attend a service academy. She was recruited to play tennis at the U.S. Military Academy and said she couldn't have imagined a better opportunity.

"I knew I wanted to play tennis for the school, I knew I wanted to be a cadet at the institution and knew I wanted to be an officer in the Army," she said. "I was attracted to the tradition, and the idea of serving, all while playing collegiate level sports."

According to Brooke, a senior human resources officer assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, the Army has allowed her to travel and live in remarkable locations, as well as serve with some of the most intelligent, driven, selfless and empowering leaders.

"It is truly humbling," she said. "I love being around Soldiers. My team is fantastic, and the work they produce is incredible. I am proud that their work impacts every single individual in this organization."

Brooke said each sibling individually decided to take the military route.

"I think that is the best way to go through an academy -- the choice being completely yours," she said. "You have to want to make the sacrifice. You have to want to serve. You have to dedicate yourself, no one else in your family."

Blake said his sisters' military success helped him push through the challenges here.

"If I needed to talk to someone about problems I was having at the Academy, they showed me that there was light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "They've shown me life after graduation and how it makes the tough times worth it. Having my sisters to talk through my Academy experience has been a blessing."

Madison serves as a surface warfare office, assigned to the USS Essex. Brooke will return to Fort Carson, Colorado, following her deployment. Blake will travel to Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, to serve as a contracting officer.

"I'm looking forward to putting my four years of training here to use," Blake said. "My plans are wide open. I may stay in the Air Force for 30 years or maybe only five. It depends on where my journey takes me but I feel very blessed my siblings and I were able to get through the academies."

Brooke said her best advice to her younger brother as he enters military life and the big Air Force is to enjoy it.

"Never have your Airmen do anything you wouldn't do yourself, and enjoy yourself," she said. "We have the unique privilege to lead America's sons and daughters. I am really excited to watch his career as an officer begin."

The siblings said they wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for their mom and dad's selfless parenting.

"Our mom sacrificed her time driving all over Houston, taking us to our sports on completely different schedules and still ensured that we had a childhood," Brooke said. "She taught us the meaning of hard work, and ensured it was instilled in each of us that if you work hard, pray to God, and do what is right you can do anything."
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