Yechan Lee marches his way into military academy


Photo used with permission from Yechan Lee

Senior Yechan Lee will attend the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Alyssa Wang, Opinion Editor

Sound off! One! Two!” For senior Yechan Lee, this army chant will soon become a daily routine while attending the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York for the next four years. There, he plans to continue his studies in computer science while simultaneously preparing for his five years of mandatory service in the army, where he hopes to work as a cyber operations officer. 

The United States Military Academy, also referred to as USMA or West Point, is a prestigious institution providing a rigorous education to cadets and preparing them to become officers in the United States Army. The student life at USMA is unique as each cadet must learn to balance academic studies with military training and physical fitness requirements. 

Before applications began, Lee was skeptical about applying to a military academy despite his mom’s efforts to convince him that his leadership qualities and participation in wrestling and band would make him a good fit for West Point. He eventually decided to attend a week-long summer program at the academy to learn more about life at West Point. Everyday, he woke up at 5 a.m. for an hour-long workout and informational meetings about the academy. In addition to being free, with housing and materials all provided for each cadet, USMA emphasizes physical fitness ,which Lee believes is necessary to maintain good health and enforce discipline. The academy also focuses on maintaining character by implementing its strict honor code — a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. 

“There is definitely a lot of discipline involved,” Lee said. “Their way of teaching makes me feel that everyone who is there is taught to be honorable and the best person they can be, and I think that is the biggest part that drew me in.”  

In June of 2022, Lee began the long application process, which included various requirements such as recommendation letters, supplemental essays, a nomination from a congressman or senator and a physical assessment, as mandated by the USMA application. During his week-long stay at the USMA, he was unsuccessful in passing the physical assessment. So, he attended a summer wrestling camp in Los Gatos and continued training throughout the school year to improve before the official administration. Meanwhile, he applied for the nomination from both of California’s senators, Senator Feinstein and Senator Padilla, as well as Congressman Ro Khanna. In late December, Lee was informed that he received a nomination from Feinstein after two interviews with Feinstein and Khanna.

“That was such an accomplished moment because without that nomination, there is no chance of getting accepted into any service academy,” Lee said. “The interview offers from Congressman Ro Khanna and Senator Feinstein were huge opportunities, and I am grateful that Senator Feinstein chose to nominate me for the academy.”

As he prepares to join USMA next year, Lee is excited about meeting new people and improving as a leader and a person, anticipating the connections and memories that he will make with his fellow cadets. After he graduates from the academy in 2028, Lee will join the army for his five years of mandatory service. During his service, he hopes to implement the lessons he has learned at West Point and fight for his country and something bigger than himself. 

“It is definitely going to be hard,” Lee said. “There are going to be some points where I wonder why I chose this life. However, I know at the end of the road, it is going to make me a better person and I know I will not regret it.”