Ball High JROTC Cadet earns a commission to the U.S. Military Academy West Point


Jesus Torres never expected to be a plebe. A year ago, he didn’t even know what one was, he said.

But come September, Torres, a Ball High School senior, will become the school’s first graduate since 1991 to become a first-year cadet, or plebe, at the United States Military Academy at West Point. It’s an honor that requires a nomination by a U.S. congressional representative, a state senator or a military service-connected recommendation, as well as stellar high school credentials.

Torres began attending Ball High School in the fall of 2019 after he, his mother and three younger brothers moved to Galveston from Eagle Pass, near the US.-Mexico border.

He had participated in Junior ROTC but found the program at Ball High School to be much more active than at his previous school, he said.

“He came to us from Air Force Junior ROTC with a rank of major, and switching to an Army program he had to start all over,” said Maj. Mark Knight, senior Army instructor at the Ball High School program.

Within eight months, Torres had re-earned his rank as cadet major.

“This guy’s a complete self-starter,” Knight said. “Put a goal or a mission in front of him and he’s knocking it out.”

Knight talked with Torres’ academic counselor in the fall and reported Torres’ plan to enlist in the Air Force. But when he discovered Torres had a 3.99 grade point average, he realized the potential for officer material and quickly began scouting opportunities.

It was a scramble to meet the late January deadline to apply to West Point, but persistence paid off. Last week, at the annual Ball High School Junior ROTC Military Ball, U.S. Rep. Randy Weber’s aide presented Torres with his appointment letter.

His mother, Mary Martinez, was by his side, awestruck by the surprise that had been kept from her. Torres was expecting an award, but not one of this magnitude.

“Nobody in my family has ever gone to college or into the military,” Torres said. “I’m so happy I made my mom proud.”

Knight and Torres will travel to West Point at the end of April to tour the campus, detouring first to Washington, D.C., where they will place a Ball High School wreath on the grave of U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Justin G. Mills, a 1935 graduate who died in 1943 in the Pacific and whose recovered remains were just identified in September.

“We’ll go to the reinterment of Lt. Mills at Arlington National Cemetery, then take the train up to New York,” Wright said.

Success at the U.S. Military Academy is predicated on fierce competition, and Torres looks forward to it, he said.

“I’m really excited to see how I fare with really competitive, successful people,” Torres said. “I’ve been preparing myself by working out twice a day, reading more history and philosophy and just trying to stay in top shape.”

The past three Ball High School appointees all have contacted Torres, reinforcing for him one of the reasons he feels he’s on the right road, he said.

“What I’ve heard is that West Pointers are very close, they’ve got each other’s back and they develop lifelong bonds,” he said.

“I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and I really look forward to that.”


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