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(Many Paths)
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Shelby Lee Grant Graduates From The U.S. Military Academy At West Point
by B.L. Azure - Char-Koosta News
Shelby Grant, member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, graduated from West Point Military Academy. (courtesy photo) Shelby Grant, member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, graduated from West Point Military Academy. (courtesy photo)

WEST POINT — This past weekend at West Point, New York, Shelby Lee Grant, a member of the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribal confederacy, joined the hallowed — and not so hallowed — ranks of some major historical military leaders when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy.

The hallowed include, among others, World War II icon and Southwest Pacific Theater commander, General Douglas MacArthur, and the not so hallowed — from an American Indian perspective — include among others, Indian fighter and commander of the 7th Cavalry General George Armstrong Custer.

Ronan High School graduate Grant has been walking in the historical shadows of military leaders like MacArthur and Custer since entering the Military Academy four years ago. What direction his military future goes is unknown but what is known is that he is the first member of the Flathead Nation to graduate from the iconic academy. And he was one of 14 American Indians presently at West Point.

Grant and his graduating class, and members of the public, were all ears when retired U.S. Marine four-star General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Defense, delivered the commencement address.

In his speech Maddis referenced the terrorist attack in Manchester, England that killed 22 people at a concert. He told the 950 graduates that, "Manchester's tragic loss underscores the purpose of your years of study and training at this elite school. We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of normal. This is not normal. You will drive home a salient point that free men and women will volunteer to fight, ethically and fiercely, to defend our experiment that you and I call, simply, 'America.' We Americans are not cotton candy. Our enemies are watching. By your commitment, you will prove the enemy wrong. Dead wrong."

Following graduation, 2nd Lt. Grant will have a 60-day leave then will report to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for the 19-week Basic Office Leadership Course. Upon completion of the BOLC, Grant will be assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas where he will be a staff officer in 1st Armored Division. The 1st Armored Division returned to America in 2011 after 40 years on the front lines of the Cold War in Germany.

Grant, a 2013 graduate of Ronan High School, enrolled at West Point in October 2013. Grant was an outstanding wrestler at RHS who also participated in football and track.

"I was really excited to go to a great school," he said of his acceptance at West Point. His acceptance included a full ride scholarship, a $900 a month stipend and a five-year service commitment.

"It has been a challenge," he said. "The first year was the hardest year; we were not treated very well and we had a lot of restrictions. But after that it has been all down hill."

Grant said he hasn't made up his mind about his military future beyond the five-year commitment.

"I am not sure if I'll make a career out of this," he said. "I will see how it goes. I'll roll with the punches. If I like it, I will stay in the Army."

A typical day at West Point begins at 7 a.m. with reveille and formation, followed by breakfast. Then it's onto classes till the noon hour break for lunch. Following lunch there is an hour of briefing then classes till 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. the cadets engage in drills or intermural sports before calling it a day. The evenings belong to the cadets unless something is scheduled for them.

"It's been a lot of hard work but in the end it's been worth it," Grant said. "At the end of the day I feel really good about my self and what I have accomplished."

Grant is one of 14 American Indian enrolled in the Military Academy. There is the Native American Heritage Forum that serves as an educational and social support system. The American Indian students host an annual powwow and attend other powwows in the area. They also attend and host conferences and educational forums. The NAHF is open to all cadets who are interested in American Indian culture and heritage. The NAHF sponsored events are open to all cadets, faculty and community members.

In order to be considered for acceptance at West Point, Grant had to be nominated for entry by one of Montana's three congressional delegates. Once nominated he had to do a lot of paperwork, write three essays and be interviewed.

"I have met a lot of interesting people here and have had a lot of neat experiences," Grant said. "The neatest experience I've had was when President (Barack) Obama gave the commencement speech a couple of years ago."

Grant is the son of Lee Grant and the late Deana Marie Streets; his siblings are Karmen Matt Shepard, Trystan Garcia, Kimber Lee Grant, and Rope Ardis.

Some famous and infamous graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, include poet Edgar Allan Poe, Indian fighter General George Armstrong Custer, WWII icon General Douglas MacArthur, Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, U.S. President and Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant, Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Rebel- and Indian-fighter General William Tecumseh Sherman and astronaut and second person to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin.

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