It's common knowledge that the rich and fertile soil of Hettinger County is well suited for producing quality crops. A lesser known reality is that local farms, like those owned by the Mayer family near Mott, cultivate more than grain-they cultivate character.
The youngest son of the Mayer family, Theodore Mayer, will be joining other fine young men and women as one of the 10% of applicants accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this year.
"I'm just a typical small town farm kid. I work on the farm, play sports, go to school and pursue my hobbies," Mayer said. "Hard work and family values are instilled in you from an early age on farms. You learn to work together with a team, appreciate the hard work and have a healthy balance of work and play. Those are pretty much North Dakota values."
Mayer added, "Being accepted to West Point is so incredibly humbling. I am privileged to attend the same school that Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Schwarzkopf learned their leadership at."
Mayer, a senior at Mott-Regent High School, said it was hard work to achieve his goal of being accepted at the prestigious military academy-something he says wasn't handed to him because of any other reason than hard work.
"I was almost at a disadvantage coming from a rural Midwest small town," Mayer said. "Going to school in a small town meant that I couldn't take AP classes or other advanced classes because I didn't have that opportunity at my school. Honestly, it's about playing the hand you're dealt and doing with it the best you can with your abilities. Even with the hand you're dealt, always go the extra mile and you can be successful."
The extra-mile that Mayer endured might as well be a marathon for the farm kid. In addition to working the farm, which grows wheat, sunflowers, flax, durum, corn and canola, Mayer also competed and participated in multiple sports, 4-H, and in junior clubs with organizations like the American Legion.
"This year, I didn't participate in track because my grandpa is getting older and can't help out on the farm as much anymore, and my older brother is at NDSU now. My dad said, 'I'm really going to need your help,' and I figured I've played sports all my life, I might as well pitch in more," Mayer said. "I hope that the legacy I leave behind for my younger sisters is one of being highly motivated in everything they do. I hope that my example inspires them to shoot for the moon, and if they fail, at least they'll land amongst the stars."
Mayer racked up multiple distinguished achievements in his high school career. He won the state competition in trap shooting with the 4-H last year with a score of 99 out of 100, was active in the North Dakota 4-H student ambassadors program, was elected governor of the American Legion Boys State for North Dakota, and placed first in extemporaneous speaking at district competition for FFA.
"On top of all of that, the process for getting into West Point is honestly a yearlong process and it's been a huge time-consumer for me in my senior year," Mayer said. "But the entire ordeal has been worth every second, because on March 24th, I got her done. I received my appointment and I accepted it right away."
The process for applying and getting accepted into West Point is an arduous affair.
Applications to West Point begin by completing the candidate questionnaire. This application process requires physical exams, mental examinations and a congressional nomination. From there, the candidate is evaluated by the admissions office to determine whether or not they will be competitive for admission and if deemed a competitive candidate, they receive additional forms to complete.
"I received my nomination from Sen. Cramer, who was representative at the time, and gave me his principle nomination. That means that I was chosen as his number one candidate out of all who applied across the state," Mayer said. "I know that it's going to be tough, but nothing worth having is easy. It's a really meaningful profession, and I'm looking forward to challenging myself in it."
Mayer, who plans on majoring in military history and minoring in either German or philosophy, said he looks up to his grandfather and great-uncle who served.
"My grandpa was in Germany during the occupation after World War II, he was an enlisted man. His brother, my great-uncle, was a first lieutenant in the North Dakota National Guard," Mayer said. "That's all I have in terms of military service in my family, but I hope to start a new legacy."
According to Mayer, he'd like to spend as many years in the military as possible. As for which component of the military he would like to serve, Mayer said he favored going into the armored corps.
"I would like to branch armored, but that's subject to change," he said. "That's what I'm interested in right now and I've always loved reading about the military history of guys like Heinz Wilhelm Guderian, who wrote his autobiography basically on armored warfare."
Mayer's advice to students interested in going to West Point, or achieving their own life goals, he said it boils down to academic success and passion.
"The number one piece of advice I could give, keeping in mind I'm only 18 years old, is for people to find something that gives you an intense meaning to life, that gives you inspiration to get up in the morning," he said. "Study extra-hard to get to where you want to be. When you're a freshman and the future seems so far away and you might think that you don't really need to try that hard in your classes, remember that all your classes and academic successes are really important to your future."