NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - When Haley Duke graduated from West Point two weeks ago, she kind of knew what to expect.
2nd Lt. Haley Duke, U.S. Army/West Point Graduate 2018, says, "My three older sisters are all graduates of West Point. Classes of 2009, '12, '15, and I'm Class of 2018. And we're the first four sisters to graduate all from the same academy, service academy, in the nation."
Did you catch that? "In the nation." And these girls didn't grow up in a military family.
"We just kind of started from zero in 2005 when Diana entered West Point and from that moment on we are a military family."
Certainly, the pressure for Haley to follow in her sisters' footsteps was there, but this 2nd lieutenant, with the 9th highest academic record in her class, made a West Point astronautics degree her personal goal. She set that goal at age nine.
"A lot of my accomplishments were furnished by other people believing in me more than I though I could do. I've been very fortunate to have mentors and my sisters, as well, reach out to tell me, 'I should do more'."
Haley did just that. The Glee Club member received numerous awards and scholarships and encouraged to begin rigorous applications for prestigous West Point scholarships.
"The greatest accomplishment out of those four, I didn't end up winning of them, is that I was a Rhodes Scholar finalist."
A finalist. Not a winner. Duke looked down at her hard earned Aviation branch pin and set yet another goal. And I remember just smiling because I was going to do what I was meant to do and that's be in the Army."
Duke is packing her bags for an extended vacation in Europe to visit her older sister. Then she moves to Alabama for flight school. Helicopters will be the aircraft. A NASA internship and a strong support of space science could lead to perhaps Rockets eventually. Duke has always had an admiration for astronauts and space science. Her long term goal is to lead the NASA Mission to Mars.
"I believe it's the next step in human exploration, in general. And that it's vital for the human species to expand."