Speed Reads

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This Haitian West Point cadet's dream of becoming a pilot is now a reality

As a child growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache was fascinated by the U.S. forces he saw conducting humanitarian missions, in awe of their technology, military hardware, and Chinooks. He says he didn't dare dream that one day, he'd be among their ranks.

No greater feeling than that of accomplishment! #DutyHonorCountry (@usarmy photo by: Staff Sgt. Vito T. Bryant)

A photo posted by U.S. Military Academy (@westpoint_usma) on May 23, 2016 at 11:03am PDT

"People where I'm from don't grow up to be pilots, right?" he told a military reporter. "You don't just say I'm going to be a pilot and make it happen. There's no aviation, there's no helicopters, no flight schools. There's none of that." Idrache, 24, ended up proving himself wrong — on May 21, seven years after immigrating to the United States, he graduated from West Point as the top physics student. In July, he will enter the Army Aviation Center for Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama, going in as the recipient of the Brigadier General Gerald A. Counts Memorial Award for earning the highest rating in physics.

Idrache's joy at being a West Point graduate was immortalized by a photographer at the ceremony, who captured Idrache's tear-stained face right before the graduates threw their caps. His father, Dieujuste, had to drop out of school at 14 to care for his family, and he encouraged his son to use education as a way to improve his life. Idrache was lured to the Maryland Army National Guard "because of a free T-shirt," he said, and thought the closest he would get to West Point was a sticker his sister brought home from a high school presentation. With the support of his platoon leader and unit's office administrator, he applied, and he left the National Guard in 2012 to enter the 214th class of West Point cadets. The administrator, Sgt. 1st Class Christi McKinney, was at his graduation, tears streaming down her face as well, as she became the first person to salute Idrache.