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Manners & Discipline: The Making of a Cadet

Manners & Discipline: The Making of a Cadet


Center Grove’s Brett Boswell accepted into three military service academies & says his upbringing gave him the foundation to do it.

By Lindsay Doty

Ask Center Grove senior Brett Boswell a question and you’ll get a “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir” response. It’s a conversation formality that was ingrained in the 18-year-old since he was a toddler, thanks to his mom, Renee.  The hands-on mother of four (including twins) wanted to teach her kids to be respectful when they spoke to adults.

“Early on, from the time they could talk I really enforced manners. It wasn’t just sometimes. It was all the time. ‘Yes, ma’am.’ ‘No, ma’am,” Renee Boswell. “I think my family thought I was a little weird because I would even have them say it to me because I was the person they were around the most. I figured if they learned to do it with me, then it would bleed over into other areas of their life.”

Mom, Renee, with Brett. (Photo by Rick Myers.)

For her son Brett, it has had an impact, and that’s a good thing because he will soon pack his new military-issued bag to begin life as a Cadet at the United States Military Academy this summer.

While going to West Point is a notable achievement, it’s not Brett’s only one. He is a member of an elite “triple admission” club of young men and women who also received appointments to the U. S. Naval Academy and the U.S Air Force Academy. He chose West Point after falling in love with the famed campus along the Hudson River.

Getting into just one military service academy is challenging (each one carries anywhere between a nine to 12 percentage acceptance rate, according to admission statistics). Getting into three?  Yes, sir, that’s rare and impressive.  He’s the only student from Center Grove to do it, and all three letters are proudly framed and displayed inside the Boswell kitchen at their Greenwood home.

“We were all very humbled.” said Renee Boswell. “He said, ‘I want to apply to all three of the academies because it’s really hard to get in and very few people get into all three.’  I’m not boasting, but I am very proud of that,” she said.

Brett is everything you would expect a promising cadet to be: smart, athletic and polite and he credits the solid values from his upbringing for getting him here.

“I would say it was strict, honestly. My parents always instilled in us to not mess with the bad things and keep your head on straight,” said the aspiring military officer.

It’s homework before play, with an expectation of A’s. Church is every Sunday and family values are always at the forefront. His father, Jim, has a career in sales and coached the kids’ various teams through the years on the weekends. Meanwhile, mom ran the day-to day operations at home. Both parents have been active in the Center Grove football scene with two boys (Brett and his fraternal twin brother, Brad) on varsity. Every Friday morning for breakfast, her kitchen was packed with a swarm of hungry Trojan football players.

Through the years, Renee provided that support and played the role of cheerleader, all while remaining tough on discipline. When they were young, she says a spanking was sometimes in order.

“Even some of the (football) coaches call me the wooden spoon mama because I have been a pretty strict parent,” she said.

You could say she was tough on trouble but she big on love. Renee cherishes the child-rearing memories packed with giggles and snuggles. “I would just get down on the floor with them and love ‘em and play with ‘em, read at night, say prayers, tuck them in,” said Boswell, tearing up over her digital photo frame rotating images from the years gone by.

The memories stick with Brett too, as do his mom’s lessons, especially on the topic of sibling smack-downs.

“She would get mad at us and tells us ‘you guys can’t be fighting, you are brothers you need to love each other. You need to play together, not against each other,’” he said. “I think that quote ‘play together not against each other’ is a huge thing that has impacted my life,” explained Brett.

The Boswell family has been big on together time, including Center Grove football, church and spending summers at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. (Submitted photo.)

The dream of attending a military academy was not a spur-of-the-moment thing for Boswell. In his freshman year, Brett was inspired after seeing friends of his older sister get accepted to service academies. He had no relatives who had served but was intrigued by the lifestyle.  From that moment on, he has been consumed with the grueling admissions process, handling most of it on his own (with support of mom and dad) while balancing football and school. It’s a process that requires physical testing (football helped—he can do 20 pull-ups no problem), strong academics, volunteering, networking, academy summer camps and nominations from members of Congress.

“When I started the process I didn’t think I would get in. I saw other kids and thought, ‘wow this kid is smarter than me, that kid is more athletic, this kid has a better shot. This kid is the president of this club and that club,’” he recalls.

But he’s used to being an underdog. As a young kid, Brett was significantly smaller than his teammates and his fraternal twin brother who is described as a football natural.  While schoolwork came easily to Brett, sports did not.

 “Brett has always had to fight for things. Everybody told him, ‘well you aren’t good enough to play football,’” remembers his mother.

After putting in extra time after practice and in the weight room, Brett proved the naysayers wrong. By the time he was a senior, he was a starting defensive back on the Center Grove varsity.  He would apply that same perseverance to getting into a military academy.

“He’s just always been one of those kids: if he wants to do something he is determined,” said Renee.

Graduation is coming quick and then Brett will head to West Point in July where he will begin Beast Barracks – six weeks of rigorous training for new cadets. He plans to study economics and pursue a career as a military officer. Tuition is free in exchange for five years of military service. There’s always a possible deployment overseas.

“I definitely think about being deployed, I mean that’s why I want to do this,” he said. “I want to fight for my country and our freedoms.”

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